While ordinary vehicle owners are made to pay money at every toll plaza on the Mumbai Pune Expressway (renamed Yashwantrao Chavan Expressway), every day more than 10,000 vehicles, including light commercial vehicles (LCV), cars, buses, trucks, multi-axle and three-axle vehicles, are travelling without paying any toll.
Information published by Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) on its website for December 2021, shows 330,797 vehicles passed from the four toll plazas of Khalapur, Talegaon, Kusgaon and Shedung, under the exemption and violation transaction category.
Pune-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Vivek Velankar, who is also president of Sajag Nagrik Manch, says, “While sharing the information, MSRDC has not specified the number of vehicles under exempted and violation category. I doubt if more than 10,000 vehicles from the exempted category like ambulances, vehicles used for emergency services or owned by members of Parliament (MPs) or members of legislative assembly (MLAs) are travelling daily on the Expressway.”
“Further, does the data published by MSRDC mean that these VIPs and exempted category people are travelling in trucks, buses, LCVs, multi-axle or three-axle vehicles? During December, 1,850 buses, 5,193 trucks, 20,196 LCVs, 5,086 multi-axle and 2,266 three-axle vehicles used the Expressway without paying any toll. How is this possible or how can the Corporation justify it,” he asks.
In 2016, Mr Velankar had requested the state chief information commissioner to direct MSRDC to publish all the vehicular traffic and toll collection data on its website.
According to MSRDC, the non-tollable count includes reuse of daily, return or monthly passes, exit trips, exemption and violations. However, even considering this, during December alone, 330,797 vehicles were allowed to pass without paying any toll on the Expressway. Since the Corporation did not provide category-wise details, it is difficult to say how many, out of the 330,797 were from the exempted category and how many have actually violated the rules (by not paying toll).
Mr Velankar has sent a letter to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray requesting for direction to MSRDC to publish vehicle numbers separately under the exempted and violation category.
As reported by Moneylife in May last year, 1,136 radio frequency identification (RFID) tags have been distributed to 788 members of Parliament (MPs) under the exempted category.
Pune-based activist Sanjay Shirodkar, who has been working on the toll issue, had told Moneylife
that, “As per the weekly report of NHAI, as on 31 January 2021, the Indian Highways Management Company Ltd (IHMCL) had issued 4,204 free FASTags to those in the exempted category. Earlier, just five to seven top office bearers like the President and the prime minister were exempted from paying toll on official duty. Now the list has increased to more than 25 categories.” (Read: FASTag: 788 MPs Obtained 1,136 Free Tags
FASTag is a device that employs radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly while the vehicle is in motion.
reported, on 8 November 2019, the ministry of road transport and highway (MoRTH) released guidelines and standard operating procedures for issuing FASTag for the exempted category of vehicles. It says all types of vehicles included under the category of ‘exempted from paying user fees’ should also be encouraged to use FASTag, adding, “This will have a good demonstrative effect on all other road users and will encourage them to use FASTag for seamless movement across user fee plazas.” (Read: FASTag: Commoners Are Denied Benefit of Return Journey Discounts while VIPs Grab ‘Exempted RFID Tags’
Here is the information shared by MSRDC on its website…