There is a discrepancy of about 50% in the number of average daily traffic on the Mumbai Pune Expressway reported by the contractor and MSRDC. The govt agency claims that this is due to exemption provided to VIPs or pass holders. Who are these VIPs who travelling daily using LCV, bus, truck, multi-axle vehicles or containers?
The mystery over the number of vehicles using the Mumbai Pune Expressway daily deepened further with activists alleging under reporting, while the Maharashtra State Road Development Corp (MSRDC) cited the exemption given to certain vehicles of VIPs and pass holders for low number.
Pune-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Sanjay Shirodkar and Vivek Velankar of Sajag Nagrik Manch had alleged under reporting in number of vehicles using the Expressway every day or Average Daily Traffic (ADT). Both received copies of a survey carried out by MSRDC through RTI, which shows the count is about double (91%) compared to the survey conducted by Ideal Road Builders (IRB), the contractor that collects toll on the 95km stretch of the Expressway.
MSRDC had carried out a videography count for a traffic survey on the expressway during 18th to 24 July 2015 at the four toll plazas of Khalapur, Talegaon, Kusgaon and Shedung. Shirodkar says a three-day average traffic reported by the MSRDC study is 43,450 at Khalapur while that reported by IRB is 22,705. Similarly, at the Talegaon toll plaza, the MSRDC video graphic counts put daily traffic at 31,135 vehicles compared to 18,130 shown by the operator.
However, in a news report, DA Salunke, Chief Engineer of MSRDC was quoted as saying, "The vehicle count, as found out by the MSRDC, is more than that of IRB's figure because of counting of vehicles of VIPs, police, cars with red and amber beacons and pass holders. The contractor issues passes to these vehicles."
Shirodkar has challenged the logic put out by MSRDC officials. He says, "Question is, is it possible that every second vehicles going is exempted or pass holder. It is surprising to know that vehicles are exempted or pass holders are in all six categories. So we need to know from MSRDC about who are these VIP's are traveling daily using light commercial vehicles (LCV), bus, truck, multi axle or containers?"
What is more shocking is when Shirodkar sought information on the list of VIPs travelling on Mumbai Pune Expressway under the RTI Act, the MSRDC simply forwarded this to Mhaiskar Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, the operator. "If the so-called third party is involved (in the RTI query) then (the) PIO should have issued notice according to section 11 of RTI Act, which was not done. Instead, he sent a simple letter to the contractor, which discloses the identity of the applicant. This act of the PIO may create a threat to the applicant from the contractor, which is against the RTI Act. It is the duty of the public authority to procure and furnish such information from the contractor to the applicant," he said.