Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways C.P. Joshi on Thursday unveiled India's first Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology-based Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) Plaza at Chandimandir here. He also inaugurated the four-lane Zirakpur-Parwanoo section of National Highway 5 passing through Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

Calling for coordinated efforts by the Central and State governments for making India a developed nation, Dr. Joshi said: “A qualitative infrastructure development is the need of the hour.”

Stating that a thrust to infrastructure development had been given in the 11th and coming 12th Five-Year Plans to increase the national Gross Domestic Product, he said the endeavour was to facilitate the common man with new technology and better road transportation facilities.

Dr. Joshi said all the highways in the country would be enabled with RFID technique that “helps users to pay the toll tax without stopping at toll plazas and reduces traffic congestion and commuting time.”

“Toll statements can also be made available online to the road users and they need not stop for the receipt,” he added.

He said his Ministry would consider giving exemptions and concessions to a certain category of users as per the request of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his Punjab counterpart, Parkash Singh Badal, besides that of Union Culture Minister Kumari Selja and Haryana PWD Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Dr. Joshi, however, asserted that the need of the hour was to rise above populism as the companies which had created huge infrastructure had to recover their costs through toll collection.

Referring to the “bottlenecks” faced by residents of Panchkula, he said these would be technically examined.

He disclosed that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has completed projects worth Rs. 1,913 crore in Haryana, Rs. 1,419 crore in Punjab and Rs. 50 crore in Himachal Pradesh. He added that the NHAI would take up major road projects measuring 1,167 km in Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh during the current financial year.

Mr. Hooda said this project would benefit the people of Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradeshas they would not have to face traffic jams on the highway. He urged the Union Minister to formally approve various roads in Haryana as National Highways which had been approved in-principle.

Local MP Kumari Selja demanded the conversion of the Saha-Ambala stretch into a national highway.

Mr. Badal stated that the payment of toll, though unpalatable to the public, had become a necessity and there was no way out.

RFID tags

Meanwhile, ICICI Bank officials said the bank was working with the toll operators for issuing RFID tags to road users to be read at the toll plazas. Users, who need to register themselves, could use the tags across multiple toll plazas; they could be updated and would act as a record for settlement of financial transactions of the toll operators.