Poll sop of ‘toll tax-free’ regime hits Maharashtra finances

Mumbai, March 14 (IANS) The BJP’s election promise of making Maharashtra ‘toll tax-free’ is taking a serious toll on the state’s finances with a whopping Rs.8,798.79 crore to be paid as compensation to road builders in lieu of toll tax till 2039, an RTI query revealed here on Monday.

The Public Works Department and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) will be required to pay compensation of around Rs.353 crore per annum for the next 23 years, till 2039.

This was revealed in a reply under Right to Information (RTI) to activist Anil Galgali by the PWD ministry.

Galgali had sought details on the compensation, the toll booths closed and those vehicles which have been granted exemptions from paying toll tax.

The reply said the PWD has 27 toll collection posts where cars, jeeps, school and state transport buses are exempt from paying the toll for which the state is compensating Rs.179.69 crore to the road contractors for the current year (2015-2016).

This will be payable annually for the next 23 years till 2039-2040, totalling Rs.7,377.44 crores.

Besides this, there are 26 toll posts of the MSRDC where cars, jeeps, school and state transport buses are given exemption, entailing a compensation of Rs.284.27 crore for the current fiscal (2015-2016).

This amount will be payable for five years till 2019, totaling Rs.1,421.35 crore to the state exchequer.

“Instead of initiating strong action against those who are looting the government and people in the name of toll tax, the government appears to be very lenient towards them,” Galgali commented on the replies.

He said the government should have audited all the concerned companies’ toll tax collection businesses, since the willingness to shell out huge compensation to the contractors is akin to ‘the treatment being more dangerous and costly than the disease itself’.

The RTI reply also stated that of the 38 PWD toll posts, 11 have been shut down with a compensation of Rs.226.51 paid, while only one out of MSRDC’s 53 toll posts has been closed after a compensation of Rs.168 crore, totalling Rs.394.51 crore.

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