Protest against increase in user fee on National Highway

 The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) and the Tamil Nadu Lorry Owners' Association have decided to launch an indefinite strike on Chennai-Bangalore National Highway from June 15 protesting against the decision of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to increase user fee in seven user fee plazas on the National Highway from June 10, against the increase in the premium for motor vehicle insurance, and demanding abolition of sales tax on diesel.

Giving this information to newspersons here on Saturday, Shanmugappa, president, AIMTC, said that while the project cost of the four-laning of Chennai-Bangalore National Highway was Rs.650 crore, the contractors, who were given the contract to levy the user fee in the seven user fee plazas on the highway, have been earning about Rs.280 crore per annum from March 2007, when they started collecting the user fee. Lorry owners have to incur an expenditure of Rs.1,428 per lorry a day by way of user fee for plying the vehicle between Chennai and Bangalore. This user fee would be enhanced to Rs.3,400 if the increase in fee comes into effect from June 10, he said.

Mr. Shanmugappa said that the NHAI claims to have increased the user fee to raise resources for the six-laning of the National Highway, work on which is to commence in November 2014.

The NHAI has awarded the contract for levying the user fee in the seven plazas on Chennai-Bangalore National Highway to two companies, who have won the contract for a 20-year period by paying Rs.2,000 crore.

If the contractors collect the user fee at the increased rate, the NHAI would be able to realise the cost of the project in four years.

But, the contractors have been allowed to levy the user fee for 20 years, during which period they could earn a whopping Rs.30,000 crore. Such a contract is unreasonable, he said.

The NHAI should start collecting the increased user fee after completing the six-laning of the National Highway and not three years before the commencement of the work, as they have planned.

“The lorry owners are prepared to pay the user fee to the extent it is required to meet the cost of the six-laning project, but not beyond that,” Mr. Shanmugappa said.

The lorry transport industry has been hit by the frequent increases in the price of diesel. The associations want the State government to abolish sales tax on diesel, so that the lorry owners do not feel the pinch of the diesel price hike.

Representatives of the AIMTC and the Tamil Nadu Lorry Owners' Association would soon meet Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and request her to abolish the sales tax on diesel and support their demand for withdrawal of the hike in user fee on Chennai-Bangalore National Highway, and the withdrawal of the hike in the premium for motor vehicle insurance. If the demands are not met before June 15, the lorry owners would resort to an indefinite lorry strike , he said.