Displaying his quintessential combative style, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray announced a ‘rasta roko’ agitation from February 12 against the hefty amounts collected in the form of toll on highways across the state.
While addressing a public meeting in the city yesterday at the SP College grounds, Thackeray said that he would personally lead the protest, and it would continue until the state government stepped in with an assurance to terminate the ‘forcible toll collection system’ in the state.
Facts of the matter: Raj Thackeray said that he was not against collection of toll, but he and his fellow citizens have a right to know that where the money had gone. Pic/Mohan Patil
Advancing statistics, the MNS chief said 6.32 lakh VVIP vehicles were exempted from paying toll at Anewadi toll plaza on Pune-Satara Road during 2010-2013.
“I was surprised to learn through RTI that vehicles like trucks, trailers and buses were shown as VVIP vehicles in documents of PWD. A similar situation was prevalent at Khed-Shivapur toll plaza where, during these three years (2010-2013), 19.06 lakh VVIP vehicles passed through without paying toll,” he claimed.
Thackeray added that by flaunting such figures, the state government extended the period of toll collection, and thus cheated the people. He said that he was not against collection of toll, but he and his fellow citizens have a right to know that where the money had gone.
Taking a dig at chief minister Prithviraj Chavan Thackeray over his ‘helplessness’, Thackeray said that the CM was like prime minister Manmohan Singh, only without a turban.
“I met Chavan four times, and every time he accepted that there was fraud in toll collection. But, he expressed his helplessness in resolving the matter due to the alliance with NCP in the state,” said Thackeray. The MNS chief added that after not getting any help from the CM, he approached the courts, but because of the lengthy process, it would take time to settle the issue.
Expressing his outrage over the pathetic condition of the highways, Thackeray added that the state government hardly cares that during 2007-2011, as many as 2,000 commuters have died on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway due to the shabby roads and crash barriers, as it is only interested in fillings its pockets.
He declared that his party would soon introduce an app that would help expose all the information and instances of forcible toll collection.
Not sparing the Shiv Sena, Thackeray also slammed the party for frequently targeting him.
“I wonder whether Sena is an opposition party in the state, or if it has merged into the Congress-NCP alliance government,” he speculated.
Number of vehicles that were exempted from paying toll at Anewadi plaza on Pune-Satara road from 2010-13
Vehicles that were exempted from paying toll at Shivapur plaza at Khed from 2010-13
Number of people who have died on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway from 2007-11
— Figures quoted by Raj