Citizens' Issues
Opposing toll system, truckers go on nationwide strike
Lakhs of trucks kept off the roads on Thursday as transporters went on a nationwide strike called by the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) to oppose the toll system.
 
Delivery of goods was affected in most states. Delivery of essential commodities like milk, vegetables and medicines, however, were exempted from the strike.
 
Trade insiders told IANS that the strike could lead to losses running into hundreds of crores of rupees to the trading community, truckers and even the government.
 
Talks between the AIMTC and the transport ministry failed after truckers rejected the government's offer of implementing an e-toll (electronic toll) system by December.
 
The government has ruled out scrapping of the toll system.
 
The AIMTC has claimed that toll barriers have become dens of corruption, harassment and extortion.
 
About 16 lakh trucks went off the roads in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Thursday as part of the indefinite strike by the truckers to protest against the present toll system.
 
Movement of goods to Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur and other major towns was affected severely by the strike.
 
The truckers' body is demanding one-time payment of taxes besides simplification of Tax Deducted at Source (TDS).
 
The truck operators in the two Telugu states are also seeking a single-permit system in view of the bifurcation of undivided Andhra Pradesh. They want Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to have single-permit agreement so that vehicles can play between the two states on payment of a fixed tax.
 
Truck operators in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh also joined the strike, affecting the movement of goods.
 
In Madhya Pradesh, supplies of essential goods to the state were hit.
 
Truckers' association president Paramvir Singh told IANS: "We demand the scrapping of the toll system, and changes in the road pollution and safety 2015 regulations. The state has more than 40,000 trucks and they will not run until our demands are met."
 
"The strike is likely to cause Rs.1,500 crore-worth of losses to truckers and over Rs.10,000 crore of loss to the government on a daily basis," AIMTC president Bhim Wadhwa said.
 
The AIMTC claims that it represents about 87 lakh trucks, and 20 lakh buses and tempos.
 
Another truckers' body, All India Transport Welfare Association (AITWA), has not joined the strike.
 
Around 1.70 lakh truckers from Odisha on Thursday joined the nationwide indefinite strike called by the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) demanding scrapping of the present toll system.
 
The truckers' body is also demanding one-time payment of taxes besides simplification of tax deducted at source (TDS).
 
As the trucks remained off the road, transportation of goods to various places in the state was badly affected.
 
However, essential commodities and perishable goods have been kept out of the purview of the strike.
 
"We were forced to go on strike after several unsuccessful discussions with the central government. We have no option left but to go on strike," said Odisha Truck Owners' Federation general secretary Rabinarayan Satpathy.
 
He said the central government has increased the number of toll gates following which truckers were facing numerous problems including wastage of fuel due to standing and idling trucks and delayed deliveries.
 
The truckers' body in Odisha is also demanding non-implementation of green tax proposed by the state government. The government has announced that a green tax would be imposed on vehicles older than 15 years to discourage such vehicles from plying.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Deadline for e-filing tax returns extended till October 31
The government on Thursday extended the deadline for e-filing of all Income Tax returns and audit reports till October 31, 2015.
 
"The government has decided that across the country, all the returns of income and audit reports u/s 44AB which were due for e-filing by 30 September, 2015, may now be filed by 31 October, 2015," a finance ministry statement said here.
 
This has been done, the ministry said, "in order to avoid discrimination between taxpayers residing in different jurisdictions and to be fair to all", as date extension has been a matter of litigation in various high courts.
 
"While some high courts have ruled in favour of the extension of due date, some others have ruled otherwise," the statement said.
 
The Income Tax department had in June notified a new set of Income Tax return (ITR) forms for assessment year 2015-16, after the government decided to modify the forms following concerns raised over them.
 
The department through its portal has electronically verified over 32.95 lakh e-returns.
 
The Income Tax department has received 2.06 crore returns, which is an increase of 26.12 percent over last year on its e-filing portal.
 
"In the financial year 2015-16, the department has received 2.06 crore returns on the e-filing portal as on September 7, 2015, that is an increase of 26.12 percent over the corresponding period of 2014-15, when 1.63 crore returns were e-filed," the finance ministry said in a statement here last month.
 
"Central Processing Centre had processed 45.18 lakh returns relating to the assessment year 2015-16 and issued refunds to 22.14 lakh tax payers who had claimed refunds for the assessment year 2015-16," it said.
 
The peak filing rate touched 3,475 returns per minute as compared to 2,901 returns per minute last year, it added.
 
The process of electronic filing has also been made simpler over the years.
 
The ministry had earlier announced that Income Tax returns for assessment year 2015-16 could now be electronically-verified.
 
"A taxpayer may verify his return through internet banking or through the Aadhaar-based authentication process," it said in a statement.
 
"Persons using this facility will not be required to submit a signed paper copy of ITR-Verification form (ITR-V) to CPC Bengaluru," it added.
 
For the convenience of small taxpayers who have a total income of Rs.500,000 or below without any claim of refund, the facility of generating the electronic verification code (EVC) has also been provided on the e-filing website of the department.
 
It also provides for sending the EVC to the registered email ID and the mobile number to enable the filer to use it to verify the return.
 
In case a taxpayer is unable to electronically verify the ITR using the EVC for any reason, the signed copy of ITR-V may be sent within the specified time of 120 days to CPC Bengaluru by ordinary or speed post, the statement said.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Why is Mumbai-Pune Expressway toll collection data a ‘secret’?
Thanks to RTI activist Vivek Velankar, the Maharashtra SCIC recently ordered toll contracts and toll collections to be put up on the website, but strangely data for Expressway and Mumbai Entry Point are still kept a secret
 
The contentious issue of toll collection in Maharashtra that has the highest toll fees compared to other States and one, which is mired in suspicion, recently got a boost for transparency and citizen empowerment. Ratnakar Gaikwad, State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC), ordered the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corp (MSRDC) to publish on their respective websites toll contracts as well as toll collection with continuous updating for all public-private-partnership (PPP) projects. However, there still are no details on toll collection on Mumbai-Pune Expressway and the Mumbai Entry Points (MEP). 
 
Following the direction, nearly 10,000 pages have been uploaded on the websites of PWD and MSRDC comprising toll contracts as well as toll collections of 16 projects of MSRDC and 42 projects of PWD. Strangely, the toll collection of Pune-Mumbai Expressway and MEP are not uploaded.
 
Right to Information (RTI) activist Vivek Velankar, who took up the issue to the SCIC, said, “What is strange is that the Expressway contract with the Ideal Road Builders (IRB) has been uploaded but not the toll collection details. We are watching closely and if need be, I would be again filing a complaint with the SCIC, since I smell something allegedly fishy.”
 
In fact, the 27 July 2015 order from the SCIC resulted in a sluggish response from authorities which propelled Velankar to once again file a complaint. In the 27th July order, the SCIC has clearly ordered that: “the Additional Chief Secretary, Public Works Department & Managing Director, MSRDC will ensure that all information pertaining to PPP Projects in the State and especially toll contracts be put up on their websites by 24 August 2015 positively and compliance be reported accordingly.”
 
“The Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra is directed to ensure that the instructions contained in Government of India, Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievances & Pensions Department of Personnel & Training dated 15 April 2013 are implemented forthwith,” the order said.
 
However, Velankar brought to the notice of the SCIC, that, the PWD had not published any information while MSRDC had published only partial information. “MSRDC has published just six agreements of toll and that to without details of operation and maintenance manuals; details of fees collected and selection of vendor criteria. They have not published the majority of toll contracts including the most important toll agreement like Pune-Mumbai Expressway,” he informed the SCIC. 
 
As a sequel to the letter, the SCIC initiated an enquiry under Section 18 (2) of the RTI Act and issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary as well as PWD and Managing Director (MD) of MSRDC to appear before it on 15th September. Velankar was also present. 
 
The PWD representative stated that information regarding all 43 projects has been put up on the website, but Velankar argued that the information was incomplete. He also brought to the notice of the SCIC that while the MSRDC has put up details of the toll collection of the Old Pune-Mumbai Highway, it had not done so in the case of the Expressway and Mumbai Entry Point. 
 
Representative of the MSRDC, Rajendra Jawanjal, assured that the information would be put up by 30th September. Velankar is keenly awaiting.
 
“I am waiting (for the information),” Velankar said, adding, “Until now no one knew the actual figures of toll collection and terms of contract. I urge activists all over Maharashtra to study this data in their respective region and put pressure on the government agencies to levy the remaining toll tax as per collection already made or make it into a freeway if the figure of estimated toll collection has surpassed in actuality.”
 
 
 

Will transparency in toll collection open up a Pandora’s Box?

 
Maybe, as the information on old Pune-Mumbai Highway is a case in point.
 
As against the estimated toll collection of Rs873-odd crore until mid-2015, already the actual toll collection is Rs1,073-odd crore.
 
 
 
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
 

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COMMENTS

dilip mody

1 year ago

Toll collection should be done electronically to avoid window dressing by private contractors.This mode of collection saves time & fuel for motorist.Worldwide toll is collected electronically to avoid malpractices in collection & for ease of motorist.
Toll collection done now leads to generation of Black Money of few Crores every day.

Deepak Mahulkar

2 years ago

All the roads are constructed either by MSRDC or PWD through contractors funded solely by the government of through PPP model. it is not understood why names of the contractor, cost, date of start and likely date of completion is not displayed prominently at both ends. In fact amount of toll collection and period is also finalized at the time of inception of the project which can also be part of such information. if all are displayed, government will achieve lot of transparency.

Sanjay Sinvhal

2 years ago

Please share website link where the toll data is uploaded for some toll plazas.

Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

2 years ago

Toll collection is a great scam amounting to thousand of crores.
It is a permanent & rich source of easy income to high profile politicians.
Ever since toll collection is privatised, the real concept of toll collection has vanished, long ago.
Toll collection for bridge started for the first time, on Mankhurd-Vashi bridge way back in the year, 1972, when it was newly constructed. In the year, 1982, when new bridge was planned, parallel to existing bridge, some one filed a petition against Maharashtra PWD, to know how much toll was collected. Then toll was being collected by PWD's own staff, so data was fully available. It was found that four times the cost of the old creek bridge was collected in 11 years, so from year 1983, Vashi old bridge toll was cancelled, by a High Court Order.
In the year, 1997, one way of new Vashi - Mankhurd bridge was opened with toll. Surprisingly, along with new bridge, toll for old bridge was also started collecting, but now, with toll contractors.
Concept of recovery of the cost of the bridge has vanished long ago, since all toll plazas are managed by private contractors, who are political big wigs.

Ravindra

2 years ago

Additionally, the information as to who was the PWD Minister two years before and at the time of signing the Contract should be part of the INFORMATION.

Gopalakrishnan T V

2 years ago

Toll collection needs to be made transparent and this needs to be fully accounted for to an audit committee. Nothing wrong if the toll collection is brought under CAG audit in the interests of the economy and its people. The fixation of toll and duratio of toll collection should be related to the recovery of expenditure for the laying down of Roads and its maintenance and it should never be a source of perennial revenue for those who are associated. The vehicles tax collection should also be linked to the toll revenues. There should be some ethics in all collection and the the whole approach should have some credibility.It should never be another source of easy loot.

Amit Anam

2 years ago

Even Mulund-Airoli toll collection is big scam, toll was supposed to be collected for 15 years only, that has passed long back, yet toll collection continues

REPLY

Ravindra

In Reply to Amit Anam 2 years ago

For the old Thane Creek Bridge at Vashi there was a court case maybe 20-30 years back and the High Court had stopped the collection since, till that time the cost of construction was much more than fully recovered. Someone from the Judiciary/related institutions like Bar Association should rake up this case and the same Principle should be made applicable to all Toll Contracts. Off course, the Contractor should get an 18/20% return on his investment since no one will do it for Charity.

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