Even as government has exempted the toll tax for the commuters living within the radius of 20 kilometers on both sides of newly-established toll plaza on Srinagar-Jammu highway at Chachkoot area of Awantipora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, the move has drawn flak from those beyond the limit.
The toll plaza was made operational on Tuesday leading to a traffic jam and chaos as many commuters refused to pay tax of 85 rupees for single journey, calling the move ‘harsh’ by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmed Khan, however later clarified the locals will be issued a free pass to cross the toll plaza and that those areas falling within the ambit of 20 Kms will be exempted from the tax.
However, the commuters who do not fall within this limit have resented the order terming it full of confusion.
“I travel from barely two kilometers ahead of the set mark (22 kilometers) means I have to dole out 170 per day”, said Saquib Hussain, from Khanabal locality of Anantnag town, who works with a private company in Srinagar and commutes every day. He said the order is unjustified and full of confusion,
The same was opined by a commuter from Mattan town of the district, 28 Kilometers from the toll post.
“The government should come clear on the issue”, said Muhammad Amin, a government employee posted in civil secretariat in Srinagar.
The people living in remote areas of Anantnag and Kulgam have termed the order as discriminatory considering their social and economic status.
“I have to take my mother for medical check-up twice a week to SKIMS. I can’t afford to pay Rs 180 each day,” said Abdul Gani Dar from Manzagam village of Damhal Hanjipora of Kulgam, 40 Kms from Anantnag town.
He said that the government should have taken into account the financial implications of this order on poor people hailing from distant places.
“The order is discriminatory in nature as it does not take into account our social status,” said the group of commuters from Larnoo , Kapran and Lower Munda areas located more than 40 Kms from Anantntnag district headquarters.
Meanwhile, traders and transporters staged a protest demonstration outside the office of Deputy Commissioner Anantnag demanding that no toll tax shall be charged from common people. The protest was organised unde the banner of All traders and manufacturers Association Anantnag, Sumo Stand Union Janglat Mandi, Bus and Matador associations who also submitted a joint memorandum before DC Anantnag demanding an immediate rollback of the decision to levy toll tax on passengers. The protesters called the exemption of tax from the people living within 20 kms radius as futile and demanded all the residents from the state of Jammu and Kashmir should be excluded from the toll imposition.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmed Khan, said that he has already taken up the matter with the NHAI authorities and it’s not up to him to change the rules under which the toll booths are operating across the country.
“The exemption of toll tax for residents living within the radius of 20 kilometers of the toll plaza is as per the regulations of National Highway Authority of India and it is applied all across India in the same way. I have only clarified on my part that there is this notification that some areas falling around the toll post will be exempted. We have already taken up the matter with NHAI and let’s see what comes out of it,” said Div Com Kashmir, Baseer Ahmed Khan.