The illegal and exorbitant toll being collected by a contractor, identified by the Manimuthar Town Panchayat, for vehicles going to the waterfalls has irked the visitors.

Since thousands of tourists will be visiting Manimuthar Falls during the forthcoming ‘Pongal' celebrations, the public here want the unlawful fee collection to be stopped immediately.

As per the norms, the Manimuthar Town Panchayat can collect only parking fee for vehicles going to the park near Manimuthar dam and not from visitors going to the waterfalls as the Department of Forest is separately collecting fee for the vehicles going to the Mainmuthar Falls.

Since the contractor designated for this job by the Manimuthar Town Panchayat, having his toll gate on a revenue poramboke land at the Falls – Park intersection, is also collecting the toll, the public have to cough up the toll twice, which cannot be justified in any terms, the affected public allege.

“When I raised this point during my recent trip to Manimuthar Falls, I was abused in the presence of my relatives including women by the personnel in the Manimuthar Town Panchayat toll gate,” said N. Parameshwaran, a businessman from Tuticorin, whose complaint to the Assistant Director (Town Panchayat) in this regard had no response.

Having left with no other option, he is all set to get legal remedy from Madurai Bench of Madras High Court to get rid of this illegal practice being allowed by an elected local body.

Though the State government has banned the collection of toll for two-wheelers and autorickshaws going to the falls and places of worship in the hills, this contractor collects Rs. 10 per bike and Rs. 15 per autorickshaw going to the falls. The Executive Officer of Manimuthar Town Panchayat S.R. Rajendran said the toll was being collected for the vehicles going to the waterfalls for the past 15 or 20 years based on a resolution passed by the town panchayat council.

“I don't know whether this resolution is legally correct or not, but the contract is being awarded for three years since then based on this resolution. As the collection of toll at two points – one by the contractor and the other one by the forest – has created ripples, we'll discuss this issue in 2012 after the present contract expires,” he said.

Even after the Office of Assistant Director (Town Panchayats) has received many complaints in the last few weeks, no action has been taken.

“I don't have any information about this issue… You should ask all these questions only to the Executive Officer of Manimuthar Town Panchayat,” said Superintendent, Town Panchayats.