THE MAHARASHTRA State Road Development Corporation has invited tenders for appointing a private party for collection of toll on Pune-Mumbai Expressway, which means the toll collection system on the expressway is set to continue despite severe opposition from citizens and activists. The decision has angered activists in Pune, who have reminded Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of his promise to scrap the toll system on the expressway and other roads of the state.
On July 8, MSRDC published an advertisement on its website, inviting tenders for appointing a private party for collection of toll for three months or till appointment of a new agency. The advertisement does not state for how many years MSRDC intends to contract the private party. Sources in MSRDC said they are planning to appoint the agency for 15 years or even more than that.
Major poll issue
The toll issue had generated a lot of heat in the run-up to the 2014 state assembly elections. BJP made it a big issue by promising to do away with several toll booths, including the expressway booth. It is likely to be raked up again during the forthcoming state elections which are due in less than six months.
From 2004, Mhaiskar Infrastructure Pvt Ltd (MIPL) was collecting the toll. Its contract is coming to an end next month. MIPL’s parent company, IRB, had won the toll contract for Rs 918 crore in 2004. Vivek Velenkar, who heads the Sajag Nagrik Manch, said, “This is beyond imagination. The Fadnavis government came to power after repeatedly promising the people of Maharashtra that they would do away with toll system…”
According to the Manch, which has sent a letter to the CM reminding him of his promise, “the present contractor has earned mega profit. We had brought this to the notice of the CM. The government turned a blind eye to this. Because of this, we had to file a PIL in the Bombay High Court on whose hearing is underway.”
The Manch said, “As per the contract, the toll operator was supposed to get Rs 2,869 crore by August 2019. It got the amount by November 2016. In last three years, it has earned an additional over Rs 1,500 crore.”