People block Kappalur toll plaza demanding NHAI to withdraw fee collection for locals

Published - July 10, 2024 08:41 pm IST - MADURAI

Protesters prevent vehicular movement by blocking the Kappalur toll plaza near Tirumangalam in Madurai by using earthmovers on Wednesday.

Protesters prevent vehicular movement by blocking the Kappalur toll plaza near Tirumangalam in Madurai by using earthmovers on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: ASHOK R

 

Scores of people from Tirumangalam and neighbouring areas on Wednesday morning gathered at the Kappalur National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) tollgate on the Kanniyakumari to Bangalore NH (NH-7) blocking the road to impress upon the authorities to withdraw their recent order of collecting 50% toll fee for local vehicles. 

In a series of protests which has been going on for several years, Wednesday’s protest was triggered by NHAI’s recent announcement for charging locals vehicles too.  

As the fee collection was to start from Wednesday, people with their vehicles- cars, bikes, cranes, lorries and autos- blocked either side of the toll plaza preventing vehicles from crossing the toll plaza.  

AIADMK MLA R.B. Udayakumar along with his supporters squatted on the road raising slogans for withdrawal of the announcements. Police detained him along with others and lodged them in a police van.  

As the agitation to release the leader became vigorous, police released them. Following this, they marched towards the Tirumangalam Revenue Divisional Office to hold talks with the RDO and NHAI officials.  

Mr. Udayakumar speaking to The Hindu said, they could not arrive upon a solution at the talks as the NHAI officials were not ready to give the assurance of withdrawing its decision on record.  

“As we are not satisfied with what officials said, we decided to continue the protest,” he added.   The protest, which continued till around 7pm, was withdrawn after the district Collector M.S. Sangeetha invited the protesters for a peace talk on July 15.  

“As the Collector said, the matter has to be discussed with senior officials and the Union government, we agreed for the peace talk,” he added.  

Commenting on Chief Minister M.K. Stalin’s election assurance to remove the toll plaza, Mr. Udayakumar, said, what Mr. Stalin said only remains in words, no action has been initiated towards that.  

Kappalur Toll Plaza violated the rule that the minimum distance between two toll plazas should be 60 kilometres, he added. “To rectify such confusions, Minister of Road Transport and Highways of India Nitin Gadkari had asked the State government to submit their grievances. Though Mr. Stalin claims they have sent the proposal, nothing seems to have been given to the ministry. If it had been sent, at least some deliberation on the matter would have taken place,” he added,  

As the toll fee for locals and penalty charge levied by NHAI on local vehicles has distressed the people more than before, the State government has no option other than to remove the toll plaza from the location, he stated.  

Further, he said, “We are aware that it is a long process but for the immediate grievance redressal, an alternative should be made for the locals to cross the toll without paying any fee.” 

Vehicle movement through the plaza remained blocked till the protesters dispersed in the evening. 

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