The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has asked its contractors to collect users’ fee at the Brahmarakutlu toll booth on the Mangalore – Bangalore National Highway as per the old rates that prevailed last month.

Shriram Mishra, Project Director, NHAI, Mangalore Project Office, told The Hindu that the contractor has been issued a letter to this effect. The decision has been taken to avoid law and order problem after Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada A.B. Ibrahim issued an order to the NHAI to stop collecting the increased users’ fee till the model code of conduct for Lok Sabha elections ends. The NHAI had hiked the users’ fee from April 1.

Mr. Mishra said that he had also written to the Deputy Commissioner that the NHAI would hold him responsible for the revenue loss during the period as the model code of conduct does not prohibit from increasing the fee.

Gopalakrishna Melanta, the contractor collecting the fee, said that the fee was being collected as per the old rates from Sunday. It would continue till further orders from the NHAI, he said.

As per the old rates, cars and jeeps have to pay Rs. 20 while light commercial vehicles have to pay Rs. 30. The NHAI has displayed the old rates at two boards at the booth. Recently, there were protests by the Aam Aadmi Party activists led by Lok Sabha candidate M.R. Vasudeva, opposing the hike.

Assault

Meanwhile, residents of Brahmarakutlu on Saturday held a snap protest at the toll booth demanding police action against those who allegedly attacked workers at the toll booth on April 16 morning and on the early hours of April 19. The workers in protest also boycotted work on Saturday. As a result no fee was collected.

A group led by Hassiner, a person accused in many criminal cases, allegedly assaulted Girish and Samit, two toll gate personnel, in the early hours of April 16. The attackers also damaged barricades placed at the toll booth. The injured toll gate personnel, who are from Brahmarakutlu, filed a complaint with Bantwal Town Police Station. Satyajit, also working at the toll gate, was attacked allegedly by the same group in the early hours of Saturday.

The residents on Saturday alleged that police were not taking action against Hassiner as he was being shielded by District in-charge Minister B. Ramanath Rai.

Allegations denied

Denying the allegations, Mr. Rai told The Hindu on Sunday that the law will take its own course and the police were free to take action against persons accused of assault. Mr. Rai said the attack followed a verbal duel between toll gate personnel and Hassiner and his group. “There are complaints against rude behaviour of toll gate personnel with motorists. The Congress will take up this issue,” he said.

The Bantwal police said Hassiner was involved in cases involving attempt to murder, robbery, rioting and assault cases. “Action is being taken to arrest Hassiner and his group,” said Additional Superintendent of Police T.P. Shivakumar.

More In: Mangaluru