New Delhi: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has said Orissa is stopping it from collecting user charges in a newly opened highway following local protests.
Huge losses: Work in progress on a national highway in Orissa. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
In a report sent to the Union cabinet secretary, NHAI said the state government has even deployed security personnel to prevent it from collecting toll at Santoshpur in the state.
The report didn’t give more details on the highway except saying that it passes through Santoshpur.
“The per day loss of revenue was Rs54,000,” NHAI said in the report that was reviewed by Mint. In another toll gate located at Panikhoile on the same highway, the daily loss of revenue on account of non-payment of user charges was Rs4.66 lakh, it said.
NHAI’s report also highlighted problem in collecting toll from several other highway stretches in the state.
While, in some cases, the state government is said to have exempted three-wheelers from paying toll, in others it has refused to intervene after transporters declined to pay the fees.
“The state government has not co-operated with us in dealing with these problems pertaining to toll collection. In fact, it even wanted us to exempt all vehicles belonging to commercial transporters registered in Orissa from paying the toll. And we have written to them saying this was not possible,” said an NHAI official who didn’t want to be identified. According to this official, the toll was being collected by NHAI as the work on these projects had been executed by it and not a private concessionaire. The Orissa minister for works, Ananga Udaya Singh Deo, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
“I would imagine that the state government would have supported these projects in Orissa with land acquisition and other clearances. And so there is no justification in their preventing collection of toll,” said Arvind Mahajan, an infrastructure expert with KPMG.
“This is a project where the money was supposed to flow into NHAI’s coffers and that is why the reaction is rather subdued on part of the (state) government. If these projects were executed by private contractors, they would have threatened legal action,” said an official with the road transport ministry who didn’t want to be identified.