Pune, 10th June 2021: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has decided to give a six-month exemption to the toll contractor on the Pune-Satara highway from paying government share in the toll amount as there was a loss due to lockdown and subsequent business loss.
“Compensation to the contractor in this way is like rubbing salt on the wounds of millions of motorists who have been suffering on the road for the last ten and a half years,” said the Sajag Nagrik Manch, a Pune-based citizens group.
The lockdown took effect on March 23 last year. The Union Ministry of Road Transport decided to impose a toll ban across the country when road traffic was completely closed. The toll ban was revoked on April 20, 2020. Even after that, the toll collection was low as the traffic on the highways was negligible.
The toll contractors had to bear losses during and after the toll ban. As a result, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and the Ministry of Finance decided on a policy of compensating toll contractors across the country. In which the criteria for compensation to the toll contractors is set in proportion to the total loss during the tolling period and then the traffic lockdown reaches 90 per cent of the previous week’s traffic level. As per these criteria, the authority decided to compensate the contractor of Pune-Satara road.
Vivek Velankar of Sajag Nagarik Manch said that road works are still incomplete in many places. Even after that, compensating the contractor is doing injustice to the citizens.
The work on the six-lane highway started on October 1, 2010. As per the original contract, the work was expected to be completed by March 31, 2013. But the work is still going on due to the consistent extension of this work by the Authority. Hundreds of accidents have happened on this road in the last 11 years due to incomplete work and thousands of crores of rupees were wasted due to traffic congestion. However, the contractor was given an increase in the toll rate every year.