Private bus and lorry operators flay “exorbitant” toll fee
MADURAI: Private bus operators and lorry operators of Madurai district on Saturday blocked the Madurai-Tiruchi highway at the national highways toll gate in Sittampatti protesting against collection of “exorbitant” toll fee there.
Vehicular movement between Madurai and Melur on the four-lane road was disrupted for good part of the day as buses and trucks were parked blocking the highway, forcing the police to divert traffic through Alagarkoil Road.
The police, who arrested protestors led by the Madurai District Private Bus Operators' Association, V.S. Velmurugan, later let them off. However, 56 private buses being operated on the Madurai-Melur sector to Karaikudi, Devakottai, Pudukottai, Tirupattur and Kallal went off the road.
Mr. Velmurugan said that unlike in other toll gates in the State, exorbitant fee was being collected by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at the Sittampatti and Viralimalai toll gates. In other toll gates on payment of one and half times of single journey fee, the vehicles are allowed to make multiple journeys during the next 24 hours. “However, we are forced to pay toll fee for very single journey,” Mr. Velmurugan said.
The Madurai Lorry Operators' Association, president, C. Sathaiah, said that besides the rate of toll was higher. As against Rs. 1.25 for each km on the four-lane, they were collecting the fee at the rate of Rs. 2.50 a km. The issue was represented to the NHAI authorities long time back, but there was no favourable response.
Later, the bus operators got an interim order in their favour from the High Court which too was not implemented by the NHAI, Mr. Velmurugan said. The issue was taken up with the Madurai Collector. “The NHAI authorities had told the Collector that they could not take a decision on the issue on their own, but have to get approval from New Delhi. Hence, we went on strike,” he added.
Mr. Velmurugan said that the protest will continue till the issue is settled.