Protesters disrupt toll collection across Kolhapur

October 18, 2013



KOLHAPUR: Collection at the nine toll plazas across the city was disrupted on Thursday as members of the Kolhapur Anti-Toll Committee (KATC) staged protests and formed human chains to stop road construction company, Ideal Road Builders (IRB), from taking the charges from road users.The toll collection resumed at two plazas after protesters dispersed in the afternoon but was suspended again after they returned.

In September, the Bombay high court had directed the district police to provide security at the toll plazas. Official sources said around 700 policemen, along with 150 security personnel from the State Reserve Police Force, were deployed at sensitive points in the city and at all the nine toll plazas.

A senior Kolhapur police official said the IRB employees had been instructed by their superiors not to take any action against the protesters during Thursday’s agitations. “Several senior leaders from all political parties participated in the protests and we felt it was not advisable for the IRB staff to collect toll,” he said.

A couple of hundred protesters, most of them from the rural parts of the district, had gathered at the Shiroli toll plaza. Addressing the protesters here, N D Patil, veteran leader and president of the Peasants and Workers Party, said, “The state government has deployed a huge police force to crush this agitation. But we will not be deterred by this. We will not allow the IRB to collect toll.”

The other toll plazas are located at Shiye, Kagal Naka, Sarnobatwadi, Phulewadi, Kalamba, Puikhadi, Uchgaon and R K Nagar.

Chandradip Narke, Shiv Sena MLA from Karvir, led the protest at the Phulewadi toll plaza, which was burnt down during the agitation in May 2013. Around 600 people participated in the protests here.

“People from the rural parts of the district, who commute to the city everyday, have been severely inconvenienced by the toll collection. The poor from the rural areas should not be made to pay toll for roads that are meant for people living in the cities. Despite the issue being raised in the legislative assembly, the state government has kept silent on this issue. Toll has been imposed on Kolhapur due to a nexus between some of the ruling leaders and the IRB,” Narke alleged.

Sadashiv Mandalik, MP, said, “The toll collection process, if allowed, will go on for 30 years according to the agreement. We should try to resist every attempt to collect toll.”

KATC member Baba Indulkar demanded the arrest of the IRB employees, saying they were supporting “illegal work” carried out by the company. “We had filed a criminal complaint against the IRB, which is responsible for the poor quality of roads and for posing a danger to people’s lives. If the police do not arrest them, the public can do so and hand them over to the police. We arrested Vijay Patil, an employee at the Kagal toll plaza, and handed him over to the police inspector of Rajarampuri,” he said.

When several protesters dispersed after 1 pm, the IRB employees started collecting toll at Kagal (from 10 vehicles) and Uchgaon (three vehicles). However, when the protesters got wind of this, they returned to these plazas and the toll collection was discontinued.

Meanwhile, the IRB has issued a public notice, stating that toll collection would be beneficial for the development of the city. The notice states that the company had moved the Bombay HC due to delays in toll collection because of protests by some city-based organizations, who had “spread misconceptions” about the IRB project.

The IRB notice reads: “Toll collection is important since the internal roads of the city will be maintained for the next 30 years through the revenue earned in this process. The HC had given its directive after it studied our stand; we have completed over 95% of the road construction work. The company has submitted a Rs 25-crore bank guarantee with the district collector as a security deposit for completing the remaining 5% of the work.”

Timeline of the agitation

July 2008: Agreement between Kolhapur Municipal Corporation, Ideal Road Builders and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation to construct 49.99 km of roads in the city at an expense of Rs 220 crore

November 2008: Agitation by social workers on the issue of utility shifting

January 2011: IRB claims completion of construction of the roads

December 2011: State government floats gazetteer allowing IRB to collect toll

January 2012: KATC opposes the state government’s order. Three weeks of mass agitation is followed by the burning down of booths at seven of the nine toll plazas

March 2012: State government constitutes a three-member committee to check the quality of roads built by IRB

December 2012: Chief secretary of state Jayantkumar Banthia allows IRB to collect toll

March 2013: The committee submits its report to the state government

April 2013: KATC opposes the report and gears up for agitation, burning down three toll booths across the city

May 2013: The state government revokes the stay on the proposed toll collection

May 25, 2013: KATC once again launches agitations. Protest at Shiroli toll booth, heavy lathicharge by police administration. Violent mob vandalises three toll booths at Shiroli, Phulewadi, Bawda

July 7, 2013: The anti-toll committee organises a rally against the state government’s decision to revoke the stay on toll

September 26, 2013: The HC directs the district police administration to provide security to IRB for toll collection

October 17, 2013: KATC forms human chain across the city to stop the toll collection

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