Gujarat Police have booked five persons for allegedly running a fake toll plaza to help vehicles bypass the genuine toll plaza and provide a passage from a private route by charging money much less than the actual toll in Morbi district.
The busting of the fake plaza which, according to sources, had been running for more than a year and reportedly collected more than ₹75 crore from vehicles, has come as another embarrassment for the government just a few weeks after the police busted a network of conmen who were running fake government offices and swindled around ₹18.5 crore grants in tribal areas of central Gujarat.
After lodging a complaint following media reports about a full-fledged fake toll plaza, the police have booked five persons including a ceramic factory owner, who is the son of an influential leader of Patidar community in Saurashtra region.
In the FIR, the police have booked Amarshi Patel, the ceramic factory owner, and his aides Ravirajsinh Jhala, Harvijaysinh Jhala, Dharmendrasinh Jhala, Yuvrajsinh Jhala and an unknown person.
In the FIR, it is stated that the accused set up a booth in a closed ceramic factory named ‘White House’ and created a road to bypass the Vaghasiya toll plaza on Bamanbore-Kutch national highway between Morbi and Wankaner. They created a similar road for the vehicular traffic coming from Wankaner to Morbi.
No complaints from locals
Local sources said that no commuter complained about the bogus toll plaza because they paid much less than the actual toll booth on the highway.
The Vaghasiya toll plaza is located on National Highway 8A connecting Morbi with Kutch. The accused created roads bypassing the toll booth and charged the passersby far less than the actual toll tax.
As per the details, the accused would charge from ₹20 to ₹200 from car owners to heavy truck drivers against the actual toll tax of ₹110 to ₹595 for these vehicles in the genuine toll plaza on the national highway.
After local media reported about the privately-owned toll plaza that was diverting vehicular traffic from the main highway, the local administration swung into action and lodged a complaint.
Morbi District Collector G.T. Pandya said that the agency, which operates the main toll plaza on the highway, refused to file a complaint against the private toll booth operators.
NHAI raised the issue
However, it has emerged that the plaza manager and NHAI officials had written to local police and other authorities stating that toll was being illegally collected by encouraging vehicles to take the detour on the unpaved road and safe passage through a ceramic factory.
On Monday, Gujarat’s Health Minister and government spokesperson Rushikesh Patel said that “strict actions will be taken against those found guilty of running a bogus toll booth to collect money” from private vehicles.
In a Facebook post, a retired IPS officer of Gujarat Ramesh Savani claimed the accused had apparently collected around ₹82 crore from the commuters in 18 months since they had set up their own toll tax booth. Mr. Savani wondered how the district authorities had remained unaware for so long.