Cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar appears to have revived the toll politics in Maharashtra as leaders cutting across parties lines are competing with each other to express their solidarity.
Tendulkar wrote a letter to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to highlight the physical and mental anguish caused from toll taxes when traveling in and out of Mumbai.
Sensing the public mood, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray joined Tendulkar’s campaign to display his one upmanship against his estranged cousin Raj Thackeray on the same issue.
The NCP which had faced the public wrath for toll policies in Congress-NCP government also joined the anti-toll campaign threatening to launch an agitation if the toll tax is not abolished in next few months.
A senior MNS leader said, “Raj Thackeray had voiced his concerns over toll tax long ago. If Tendulkar is taking up Raj Thackeray’s cause we surely welcome the move.”
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “Yes, I have received a letter from Sachin Tendulkar on toll tax. In his letter, Tendulkar has urged the government to reconsider the toll collection model to ensure hassle free travel and payment of toll tax.”
Fadnavis said, “ The problems have arisen because the entire policy of the previous government was contractor driven. But we are taking concrete measures to streamline the process to provide relief to the commuters.”
The public works department minister Chandrakant Patil is already on the job, he added. Hinting at the possibility of introducing electronic toll collections.
Tendulkar, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, in the letter said, “The government should reduce the physical and mental toll on those traveling in and out of city regularly.” he has listed eight toll gates, including Ghodbunder Raod, Taloja, Dombivali toll centres in the outskirts of Mumbai.
The cricketer turned politician noted, “Khargar toll gate is the new addition in the list of existing toll centres. The commuting from Vashi to Thane is frequent and there is a need to re-look at the rising number of toll gates.”
Tendulkar complained against the long waiting period at the toll lanes which leads to traffic snarls and also wastage of fuel. The toll centres have turned into bottle necks causing a lot of hardships to the commuters, he added.
The recent hike in toll rates at the five entry points of Mumbai, working to one-way tax of Rs 35 has further compounded the problems as change of Rs 5 is not easily given.
Irked by the higher toll tax and traffic, he further goes to state, “While toll is collected, there is no quality control on the roads with the roads leading to the Vashi and Airoli bridges being cases in point.”
According to Congress (MLC) Anant Gadgil, “The BJP-Shiv Sena government had promised to abolish the toll taxes in Maharashtra.
However, they have gifted an additional toll gate at Navi Mumbai to the people. It shows where the government is heading.”
According to leader of opposition in state council Dhananjay Munde, “The NCP will take to streets if the government does not abolish the toll tax.”
Notwithstanding Tendulkar politics, Fadnavis said, “ I am glad atleast he raised the issues of the common people.” The chief minister asserted, “ My government is committed to abolishing the toll. But the problem is Congress-NCP government has entered into agreement with companies without keeping the option of buy back.” Yet, we will fight them in courts and ensure people of Mumbai and Maharashtra are relieved of the heavy toll taxes. But it will take some time.