August 18, 2011
KOCHI: After a short interval, the days of agitation are back at Kumbalam Toll Plaza. With the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) resuming toll collection, various organisations under the aegis of National Highway Protection Council have commenced an indefinite strike to protest against toll collection along the Aroor-Edappally stretch of NH 47.
On August 9, Quit India Day, the agitators will observe the day as Quit Toll Day. “We have decided to organise an indefinite strike. Today we erected the pole for constructing a tent for the strike near the toll plaza in Kumbalam,” said C R Neelakantan, activist and leader of National Highway Protection Council (NHPC). “People who pay heavy road taxes are being forced to bear the additional burden of toll which is unfair. Our demand is that the Government should construct 30-metre wide NHs. There is no need to construct the 45-metre-wide road,” he said.
“Construction of private NHs or BOT-based NHs are not feasible in the state. Unlike other states where NHs are used by long-distance travellers, here short-distance travellers constitute the major chunk NH users and it is difficult for them to pay toll every day,” Neelakantan said.
Many organisations have already come forward to conduct the strike every day till August 15. “August 15 will be observed as the Right to Travel day. We plan to picket the toll plaza.
We are yet to give shape to the programme,” Neelakantan said. In other states, few roads cut the across NH and that too after 40-50 km interval. But in Kerala, on an average of more than five roads will enter the NH on a one-km stretch. So, it will be very difficult for the locals to pay the toll,” he said. The NHPC argues that elevated roads can be constructed using the subsidy given for BOT roads and the amount used for acquiring land for the widening the road.