Thousands of Sastan Villagers show Solidarity against Toll Collection from KA 20 Vehicles
Udupi: The Kota Zilla Panchayat constituency Bandh call under the leadership of Heddari Jagathi Samithi Sastan protest against the collection of toll from Local KA -20 vehicles has received a good response with the participation of Swamiji’s, Priests, MLA, MPs and the public in huge numbers. All the leaders who participated in the protest demanded to exempt the locals from paying the toll and also expressed their displeasure against the Navyug Company for its unscientific highway work.
Speaking to the protesters, Sri Esha Vittaladas Swamiji of Kemaru Sandipani Ashram said that people’s participation gives a positive result for every protest. Today we have gathered here to protest against the collection of toll from the local KA – 20 vehicles. It is not only for Udupi district but the entire undivided Dakshina Kannada District should be made toll free. United participation by the people in this protest against injustice is more important. We have elected our representatives to protect our rights in the country but it is unfortunate that today our representatives are protesting with us for justice in the toll issue, he said.
Sri Narasimharama Swamiji of Balekudru Math said that earlier we were moving freely from our home to other nearby places, but now we need to pay the toll. The locals should be allowed to move around in their vehicles freely without paying the toll. It is easy to start any protest but it is difficult to end it. Success can only be achieved when the public unitedly participates till the end in the fight for justice, he said.
Udupi MLA Raghupathi Bhat too accused the Navyug company of failing to complete the work.
“Initially, five flyovers were proposed to be constructed in Udupi. Later, however, it was reduced as the company could not follow the guidelines of the proposal. In spite of collecting Rs 13 lakh to Rs 14 lakh as toll on a daily basis, the company claims to be running at a loss,” said Bhat.
“The unscientific construction and lack of maintenance have resulted in many accidents on the NH 66 at different locations,” he added.
Bhat urged the protesters not to yield to any pressure regarding paying the toll. He also accused the police of facilitating the forceful collection of toll by promising security at the toll plaza. The police should not work hand in glove with the toll collectors, he stressed.
“The local vehicles plying within a radius of 10 km from the toll plaza in the district should be exempted from paying toll,” he demanded.
Kota Srinivasa Poojary, leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, said that he was constant communication with the district administration regarding the injustice meted out to local vehicles.
The MLC, however, threatened to intensify the protest if the local vehicles were not exempted from paying toll.
Sastan St Antony’s Church Parish Priest Fr John Walter Mendonca said that a company from another state has come here in the name of toll and taken our right to move freely in our own town. When there were floods at other places, we sat down in our homes and watched, but now when it has come to our own house, we have come to know the consequences. While purchasing the vehicles we have paid sufficient road tax then why is the company forcing us to pay the toll for our vehicles. He also extended the support of the Christian community in the coming days against the collection of toll.
Udupi Chikkamagaluru MP Shobha Karandlaje said, the Navyug construction company, which is in charge of the four-laning of NH 66 from Talapady to Kundapur, had failed to complete the work on schedule. The work on the road should have been completed as early as 2013, but five years later, the work continues to move at a snail’s pace, criticised Karandlaje.
“The service roads and dividers on several stretches of the NH 66 have remained incomplete,” she pointed out.
The MP said that she has appealed to Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari to blacklist the construction company. “The minister, however, was unable to do so as the company had already completed 60% of the work and blacklisting then would be against the law,” she insisted.
Shobha Karandlaje further said, “The locals are demanding that a discount be provided for vehicles within 10-20 kms vicinity of the toll gate. I have already instructed the company through the Deputy Commissioner not to collect toll without completing the highway work. The company is not responding to the deputy commissioner’s order”, she said.
Opposition leader Kota Srinivas Poojary, Udupi MLA Raghupathi Bhat, Kaup MLA Lalaji R Mendon, INTUC State president Rakesh Malli, Hejamadi Toll Virodhi Samithi President Deviprasad Shetty, Kota Block Congress president Shanker Kundar, BJP district president Mattar Rathnakar Hegde, BJP State committee leader Uday Kumar Shetty also shared their views.