The present location is in violation of NHAI rules, say MPs

After two bouts of scuffle on the four-lane highway toll plaza at Kappalur, the Madurai district administration has asked the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to re-locate it at a suitable place in accordance with the NHAI rules.

The residents of Tirumangalam have been vehemently opposing collection of toll on the road claiming that they used only the service road and not the four-lane highway to reach Madurai. The tourist van operators said it was an economically unviable for them to pay the toll for operating their vehicles between Tirumangalam and Madurai.

A Struggle Committee against Tirumangalam Toll Plaza was floated to fight against the “unilateral” decision of NHAI to locate the plaza in between Tirumangalam and Madurai. At least on two occasions, scuffles ensued after wordy quarrel between the road users of Tirumangalam and those manning the toll plaza, leading to police and revenue officials’ intervention.

With mounting tension, Congress MPs,B. Manicka Tagore (Virudhunagar) under whose constituency the plaza falls and N.S.V. Chitthan (Dindigul) also raised their objections to the location of the plaza. At a recent meeting of NHAI officials and the contractor, the MPs told Collector Anshul Mishra that the location of the plaza was in violation of NHAI rules. “The plaza should be located 10 km away from municipal boundary. But, it is just 1.5 km away from Tirumangalam municipality. It is a gross violation and we registered our displeasure. The Collector has promised to write to the NHAI to re-locate it elsewhere,” Mr. Tagore said.

“Apparently, there is violation of the NHAI rules on the location of plaza. We will write to the NHAI to shift it at a suitable place, considering the law and order problem,” the Collector said.

Committee coordinator P.K. Vembuvendan said the four-lane road was laid for Samayanallur to Virudhunagar stretch of Madurai-Kanyakumari highway. “While the four-lane road was for the Madurai-Kanyakumari road users, the plaza was located at a place where people using Cochin-Madurai highway and Shencottah-Madurai highway were forced to pay the toll,” he said. These two highways were joining only at Tirumangalam, and the road users could reach Madurai without using the four-way road, he said.

Stating that the NHAI had originally planned to have the plaza at Melakottai, he said it was changed to Kappalur only with an unjust profit motive. After the MPs insisted that vehicles registered with Tirumangalam Regional Transport Office, should not be levied toll till the plaza was shifted, no toll was being collected for them since Friday, Mr. Vembuvendan said.