Official and contractor nexus ?
: Even as the district administration is working overtime to woo tourists to Courtallam this season, visitors complain they are overcharged at the toll collection points.
Contractors usually collect Rs.20 from cars and jeeps, Rs.30 from vans and Rs.50 from heavy vehicles towards parking charges for 24 hours. However, the charges are inflated by 100 to 150 per cent by contractors, say tourists.
Even two-wheelers and autorickshaws were not exempt, despite Chief Minister Jayalalithaa herself declaring that these vehicles were exempted from paying parking fees in any part of Tamil Nadu, a frequent visitor to Courtallam said.
Those who protest were threatened, he claimed.
According to sources, visitors are overcharged with the connivance of officials of the Courtallam Town Panchayat.
No action has been forthcoming on complaints submitted to the Executive Officer of the Town Panchayat (who is on medical leave now), the sources add.
Visitors to the Eco Park near the Five Falls pay parking fees at two points as the contractor has established the collection point at Ilanji intersection, which is 1.5 km away from the Five Falls.
The Tamil Nadu People’s Consumer Federation has forwarded a memorandum to the Commissioner, Department of Consumer Protection, Chennai, in this regard. No action has been taken so far.
Says a senior officer in the Office of the Assistant Director of Town Pancahyats at the Collectorate: "They (contractors) are colleting excess fees as they have bagged the contract for a hefty amount. We admit that it is a gross violation of contract norms."
Assistant Director (in-charge), Town Panchayats, T.Dharmaraj, told The Hindu that contractors should collect only the prescribed fee.
"Any affected tourist can file a complaint either with me or with the Collector. If the complaints are genuine, the contract will be cancelled," Mr. Dharmaraj said.
He said digital banners with fee details would shortly be displayed near the toll collection points and on roads leading to Courtallam from Tenkasi, Shencottah and the Old Falls.