STATE TIMES NEWS JAMMU: Private bus services along the Jammu-Pathankot Highway remained suspended for the second day here on Tuesday to protest against the newly set up toll plaza at Sarore in Samba district. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) defended its decision to set up the toll plaza and assured the people of hassle-free movement of traffic. The toll plaza was inaugurated by the NHAI on October 11, drawing strong opposition from residents and political parties, including the BJP, which wrote a two-page letter to the Union Transport Ministry seeking its removal. Various social and political organisations launched protests over establishment of Toll Plaza at Sarore in District Samba on Jammu-Pathankot National Highway.
Public Rights Foundation, a local organisation, went on agitation ‘Toll Satyagrah’ over the government move, wondering that such a move comes at a crucial time before re-organisation of the Jammu and Kashmir State. Leading the agitation, Amandeep Singh Boparai, Chairman of the Foundation, criticised the opposition leaders for maintaining criminal silence over this issue. Giving ultimatum to the government to remove the Toll Plaza immediately, the members of Public Rights Foundation warned that their agitation will continue till their demand is met. They also appealed to all the organisations as well as people of Jammu region to join them to ensure that the anti-Jammu decision is revoked. Jammu Kathua Bus Union also joined the strike against the government move on toll plaza. Members of the Union said that they had also took the matter with BJP State President Ravinder Raina but nothing has been done in this regard.
“Our union is not in favour of toll tax and we will continue our strike till the government abolishes the toll plaza,” they said. Meanwhile, President JKPCC, Ghulam Ahmed Mir strongly criticized BJP for installation of another toll plaza at Sarore within the distance 50 kilometers from the existing one, while third one is in the pipeline on this route, which amounts to over taxing the people in the already economically distressed atmosphere in the county. Terming it unjustified and unfair, JKPCC Chief G.A Mir said, it looks strange that this has been done by the BJP, which opposed it few years back while in opposition and termed it ‘Jazia’ on pilgrims. It was abandoned by the UPA Government on public demand but now when BJP is in power they have installed second toll plaza on highway which is extra burden on the pilgrims of Mata Vaishno Devi and Amarnath Yatris, he said. Mir termed these steps as insensitive and without bothering for the woes of the common people. He said that Congress will launch strong protest against this anti-people move of the Government.
No violation in setting up toll plaza: NHAI
“We want to clarify that there was no violation of guidelines in setting up the Toll Plaza at Thandikhui near Sarore. The traffic is being smoothened and reduced day by day to ensure no traffic jam occurs,” Project Director, NHAI, Project Implementation Unit, Ajay Kumar Rajak said while addressing media persons here. “The traffic congestion on the first day was due to the non-cooperation of commuters who do not want to pay the user fee, he said. The traffic congestion has now significantly reduced. Dedicated lanes have been allotted for buses, trucks, light motor vehicles, and VIP vehicles, he added. Rajak said the NHAI had started issuing monthly passes to commuters which would help to further reduce the congestion and the number of toll booths would also be increased to ease the traffic flow. There are four toll plazas in Jammu and Kashmir and they are generating a cumulative income of Rs 195.6 crore annually, he said, adding that due to delay in commissioning of Toll Plaza in Sarore several road projects have been delayed due to shortage of funds.
Congress State Vice President and former Minister Raman Bhalla said that the way the Central Government of the BJP has imposed toll plazas or other types of taxes on the people of Jammu, the Congress will never tolerate it. Bhalla said this while addressing journalists at his residence. Bhalla said that Congress will launch a massive agitation against Sarore Toll Plaza from Wednesday. Traders Federation Ware House-Nehru Market Jammu demanded abolition of toll plazas in Ban, Sarore and Hiranagar along with Lakhanpur toll tax. The federation demanded that the Central Government should remove these toll tax plazas and give Diwali gift to the nationalist people of Jammu. It added that the nationalists’ people of Jammu have always supported the center and it was on the strength of the nationalist forces of Jammu, the Central Government managed to remove Articles 370 and 35A. “Now the time has come for the Central Government to provide some relief to Jammu, which has been suffering from repression for the last seven decades by abolishing all kinds of tolls from Jammu,” Vice President of the Federation, Munish Mahajan said, adding that consumers of State are already additionally taxed at Lakhanpur, despite government’s slogan of one nation-one tax.
Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party staged protest against new toll plaza at Sarore. The protest was held under the leadership of Chairman JKNPP Harsh Dev Singh whereas Ex MLA Samba Yash Paul Kundal and District Youth President Rajeshwar Singh were also present. Harsh demanded abolition of new toll plaza. He said that if the toll plaza will not be closed within two days then they will be forced to block Jammu Pathankot National Highway. Among those who joined the protest include Arun Khajuria, Bobby, Manoj Sharma, Nishu Sharma, Jangvir Singh and Pardeep Lalotra.
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