Former PM Gowda Joins Protests Against Toll Hike

Former PM Gowda Joins Protests Against Toll Hike

Former Prime Minister and JDS chief H D Deve Gowda joined the protests against a steep hike in the toll on the National Highway leading to the international airport, which entered the fourth day today.

The decision to slash the new toll by one third for some regular users including taxis that make more than 50 trips a month on the route announced yesterday failed to reduce the intensity of protests.

Police stepped up security in and around the toll plaza on the National Highway even as the state government has expressed its helplessness in rolling back the hike as the matter was beyond its purview and in line with the agreement between the National Highways Authority of India and the concessionaire.

Private taxi drivers are up in arms against the nearly four fold hike on the 22-km stretch of the elevated road to the Kempegowda International Airport but the increase has been justified by the NHAI citing relevant provisions under the National Highway Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules.

Staging the protest at the Sadahalli toll gate, where he was joined by JD(S) workers, Gowda said the hike would hit the taxi drivers hard and the state government should step in to resolve the issue without trying to escape from its responsibility.

Activists of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and other Kannada outfits staged protests demanding a rollback of the toll hike. The protests took a political hue when the BJP pitched in yesterday.

The Federation of Karnataka Lorry Owners and Agents Association President G R Shanmugappa said the toll must be reduced before May 9 or else they would resort to strike stopping movement of commercial vehicles, including cars and lorries.

The toll for a return journey by car or other such vehicles has been increased from Rs 30 to Rs 115 with effect from last Saturday. The concessionaire of the public-private partnership project has been allowed to hike the toll in accordance with the provisions of the agreement with NHAI.

The state government's initiative to find a solution through a meeting with NHAI officials and representatives of the concessionaire yesterday, came out with some relief for users, but has failed to satisfy the protesting outfits.

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