The toll booth – Disheartening reality of India
Dec 14, 2023
We should appreciate the state public undertaking minister Dada Bhuse for admitting that the state roads are in poor condition despite the significant toll payments collected. He recognized that toll payments have increased drastically this year, but the truth is that most people are unaware of this fact due to the implementation of fastag. With fastag, toll payments are now made automatically, so we don’t pay attention to the amount being deducted. In the past, when we paid tolls in cash, we would notice the amount and the media would address the issue. Opposition parties would also raise the matter for debate. But now, with fastag, there is no protest or discussion. If tolls continue to increase, we will simply pay without questioning it. This is likely the reason behind the push for fastag and online transactions – to avoid scrutiny.
The first toll road in India after the British era was started in Maharashtra. The Pune-Mumbai Expressway began collecting tolls in the 1990s, and they continue to do so. However, we don’t know how many times the cost has been covered or how many times the toll has increased. When we are driving on the expressway, we are focused on the road and don’t have time to check the toll amount. Despite this, there are still ongoing patchwork and construction activities on the expressway, with good roads being broken and replaced with concrete. The common man doesn’t have the knowledge or means to question these practices.
Why should we have to pay tolls? It was introduced a few years ago, and the state government collects road tax from vehicle owners. Now, with the increased number of vehicles, road tax has also increased. However, the financial situation has changed, and toll collection is no longer directly linked to road repairs. Some roads are still in poor condition despite the collection of taxes. For example, the Western Express Highway (WEH) and Eastern Express Highway (EEH) in Mumbai were transferred from the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). This means that MSRDC is no longer responsible for maintaining these roads, yet they continue to collect tolls. This is a clear injustice, but no one is willing to stop this milking of money. The government is trying to extract as much as possible, and they even refuse to release audit reports that would reveal the culprits.
Today, it is evident that every government focuses only on building highways and neglects the repair of state highways and small rural roads. This is because toll collection is not as significant on these roads. Despite this, they continue to prioritize the construction of large highways, even when there is minimal traffic. We can speculate on the reasons behind this decision.
Finally, many toll booths operate with a mafia-like approach. If the fastag reader is not working, they still stop vehicles and harass people, demanding double payment. To avoid confrontation, many commuters end up paying double and moving on. One particularly troublesome toll booth is located on the old Pune-Mumbai road at Shedung. Their machines rarely work, but they still harass and threaten people, causing vehicles to be stuck for hours. At the same time, there is a rule that vehicles should not be stopped at a toll booth for more than three minutes, but nobody seems to care about enforcing it. This is the reality of India, and it is disheartening.