Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda Wednesday joined the four-day-old protests against the toll hike on the NHAI expressway leading to the Kempegowda International Airport. Gowda joined various organisations, including pro-Kannada groups, in demanding a roll-back in the nearly fourfold hike in toll on the highway. The former PM said the toll hike would hit taxi drivers and called for the state government to intervene without passing the buck to the Union ministry.
Earlier, the protest by pro-Kannada groups resulted in one activist of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) vandalising a couple of toll booths. The KRV and Suvarna Karnataka Rakshana Vedike workers have been part of the protests since it started Sunday.
A person identified as Srinivas, who smashed the glass enclosures at two toll booths, was arrested by Chikkajala police, who registered a criminal case against him for damaging private property. The police took more than 50 KRV workers into preventive custody.
A decision to ease the toll hike by one-third for regular users, including taxis, which was announced Tuesday has failed to stem the protests. Police have stepped up security in and around the toll plazas on the highway. The state government has expressed helplessness in rolling back the hike since it is part of an agreement between the National Highways Authority of India and the concessionaire.
The toll for cars on the 22 km expressway stretch, which is part of a 37 km commute from Bangalore to the city’s international airport, was hiked from Rs 30 to Rs 115 last Saturday night.