Despite protests, toll to be introduced for KA 19 vehicles in Surathkal

Commuters unhappy over toll for for KA 19 vehicles in Suratkal toll booth from March 1.
Despite protests, toll to be introduced for KA 19 vehicles in Surathkal
Despite protests, toll to be introduced for KA 19 vehicles in Surathkal
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From March 1, private vehicles with a 'KA 19' registration will also have to compulsorily pay toll at the Surathkal toll booth in Dakshina Kannada. The decision to levy toll on vehicles with local registration was taken by Keshav Agarwal Company, which took over the contract for toll collection from the toll booth in November 2018, to improve toll collection from the booth. Previously, vehicles bearing the local 'KA 19' registration number, which includes vehicles registered in Dakshina Kannada, were exempted from paying toll at the booth.

The move to introduce toll for vehicles with local registration numbers has angered residents and activists in the areas near the toll booth, as it will mean that commuters driving to Mangaluru will now have to pay toll of Rs 75 at the toll booth in Surathkal and Rs 50 at the toll booth in Hejamady, which is 11.2 km south of Surathkal.

"If toll is collected in both booths, then commuters travelling to Mangaluru from Padubidri every day will have to pay Rs 125 for toll. This is not a new road constructed. This is an existing road that has been widened and we are not happy that toll will now be compulsory for local residents also," explains Yathish Baikampady, who is in the process of mobilising a protest in response to the decision.

According to rules laid down by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the distance between two adjacent toll booths should be at least 60 km.

Protest demanding closure of Surathkal toll booth in September 2018

Even though a monthly pass will be available for local vehicles, commuters are unhappy since it will be an added inconvenience. "Initially. we had demanded the closure of the toll booth but after exemptions were made for local vehicles, the stir against toll collection in the booth was curtailed. They are looking to divide and rule in this manner," says Muneer Katipalla, State President of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) who was part of the protests to close down the toll booth in Surathkal.

The toll booth at Surathkal has been the site of various protests in the last six months. The Tollgate Virodhi Horata Samithi, a forum formed to demand the closure of toll booth at Surathkal, held a protest in September 2018 asking for the merger of the toll booths in Surathkal and Hejamady.

The protest intensified after the Samiti held a 11-day dharna in October demanding the closure of the booth. The dharna was withdrawn after assurances were made by district incharge minister UT Khader that a meeting will be held with NHAI officials over the issue.

Protest demanding closure of Surathkal toll booth in September 2018

The Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC) council in its October meeting passed a resolution to recommend to the government to close down the toll gate on NH 66 at Surathkal. The recommendation was backed up by letters from the Samiti, the district administration and the NHAI's regional office reiterating the demand to close down the toll booth and merge it with the toll booth at Hejamady.

However, in spite of the recommendations, the toll collection at the booth continued to happen and Keshav Agarwal Company took over the contract after the previous contract expired on November 16, 2018.

The company has now decided to collect toll even from vehicles with 'KA 19' registration numbers. The decision will come into effect on March 1; however citizens living in the areas near the toll booth are planning to protest the decision once again before the toll collection is implemented.

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