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Parliament proceedings | Roads to be freed of toll booths in a year: Nitin Gadkari

Union Minister for Road, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari addresses a press conference in New Delhi on March 18, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

India will implement a GPS-based toll collection system and do away with all toll booths within a year, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari informed the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

He also shared details of the vehicle scrapping policy, first announced in the Union Budget for 2021-22, according to which the automobile industry in India will see a jump in turnover to ₹10 lakh crore from ₹4.5 lakh crore.

Separately, the Minister also expressed concern over the number of accidents and asserted that road accidents had taken away more lives in 2020 compared with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to assure the House that within one year, all physical toll booths in the country will be removed. It means that toll collection will happen via GPS. The money will be collected based on GPS imaging [of vehicles],” Mr. Gadkari told the the Lok Sabha during Question Hour, responding to a question by Bahujan Samaj Party MP Danish Ali.

He said 93% of vehicles pay toll using FASTag — a system that facilitates electronic payment of fee at toll plazas seamlessly — but the remaining 7% had still not adopted it despite paying double the toll. Since February 16, vehicles without FASTag are required to pay double toll fee at electronic toll plazas.

The Minister said he had asked for a police inquiry into vehicles that don’t pay toll using FASTags and claimed that there were cases of toll theft and GST evasion if FASTags were not fitted in vehicles. He said that while new vehicles have FasTags fitted in them, the government would give free FASTags for older vehicles.

Scrapping policy

The Minister also made a statement in the Lok Sabha on the government’s new scrapping policy which, he claimed, would reduce pollution, improve fuel efficiency, and increase government’s revenue collection from the sale of new vehicles.

The new policy provides for fitness tests after the completion of 20 years in the case of privately owned vehicles and 15 years in the case of commercial vehicles. Any vehicle that fails the fitness test or does not manage renewal of its registration certificate may be declared as an End of Life Vehicle.

All government vehicles and those owned by PSUs will be de-registered after 15 years.

The government will implement the policy in a phased manner, Mr. Gadkari said. The policy will kick-in for government vehicles from April 1, 2022. Mandatory fitness testing for heavy commercial vehicles will start from April 1, 2023, and for all other categories of vehicles, including personal vehicles, it will start in phases from June 1, 2024 .

In order to encourage vehicle owners to take their old vehicles to scrapping centres, the government has announced several incentives, including advisories to States to give up to 25% rebate in road tax for personal vehicles and up to 15% rebate for commercial vehicles. The government will also offer waiver of registration fees on the purchase of new vehicles.

The Minister said the Union government would issue an advisory to auto makers to offer the incentive of a 5% rebate for those who buy a new vehicle after producing a scrapping certificate.

The Ministry has proposed that commercial vehicles be de-registered after 15 years in case of failure to get the fitness certificate, and a private vehicle will be de-registered after 20 years if its fails fitness certification.

There are 51 lakh light motor vehicles older than 20 years and 34 lakh light motor vehicles older than 15 years, the Minister said.

Mr. Gadkari said that older vehicles pollute the environment 10 to 12 times more, and estimated that 17 lakh medium and heavy commercial vehicles were more than 15 years old and remained without a valid fitness certificate. As a disincentive, increased re-registration fees would be applicable for vehicles 15 years or older from the initial date registration.

The Ministry has also issued rules for registration procedure for scrapping facilities, their powers, and scrapping procedure to be followed.

The Minister said his Ministry would promote the setting up of a Registered Vehicle Scrapping Facility and claimed that prices of auto components would fall substantially with the recycling of metal and plastic parts.

During the Question Hour, the Minister also reiterated the government’s commitment towards accident prevention and cited Tamil Nadu as a model State that brought down accidents by 52%. He urged Members of Parliament to ensure that districts under their constituencies should try to follow a ‘Zero Accident’ policy.

“In the last one year, 1.5 lakh people died due to road accidents, which is more than the 1.46 lakh deaths due to COVID-19,” he said, noting that most of those who died were people in the age group of 18-35 years.

“The move will revive the ailing commercial vehicle segment and also boost the State exchequer’s revenue on the sale of new vehicles,” said Vinkesh Gulati, president, Federation of Automobile Dealers’ Association.

“The policy will pave the way for the creation of an ecosystem of vehicular scrapping facilities and a market for recycled raw materials,” said Confederation of Indian Industry’s director general Chandrajit Banerjee.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 2:24:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/parliament-proceedings-roads-to-be-freed-of-toll-booths-in-a-year-nitin-gadkari/article34098585.ece

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