Why do politicians quibble, or get violent, with employees at tollbooths on the paltry issue of being halted and asked to pay a toll? The issue, apparently, has to do with the gap between the treatment they expect and the one they receive by tollgate operators, the public accounts committee (PAC) of the state legislature has inferred.
In a report tabled during the recently concluded winter session, the committee dwells on the matter of unwitting clashes at tollbooths between the retinues of very important persons (VIPs) and the unimportant ones. Citing the vandalism that occurred at the Pune-Satara-Khanapur Road tollbooth, it observes that such incidents should not be repeated. It has stressed upon the need to train employees on how they should speak or behave with elected representatives.
The panel reasons that since employees at tollgates are replaced frequently and most of them have limited education, they may not know or recognise the VIPs. Also, they are not aware how to speak or behave with elected representatives, the committee says, and has, thus, recommended training for them.
During one of its hearings
on the operations of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the PAC sought clarification on the issue. It was pointed out that whenever a vehicle carrying elected representatives is halted at the toll naka, the driver produces a card issued to him. The operator shows the card to the manager, which prolongs the process.
Even though the licence plate numbers of the vehicles used by ministers, MLAs and MPs have been circulated among the tollgates, it is not a certainty they will travel in the same vehicles. Offering clarification, MSRDC officials said that the last lane at every toll plaza had been reserved for VIP vehicles. If the elected representatives used this lane to go through, there would be no problem.
The instructions would be given to the concerned parties, the officials submitted. Now, a fresh circular will be issued asking toll plaza employees to refrain from stopping vehicles of elected representatives. Copies will be given to all members of the state legislature, the officials said.
Taking a toll
December 3: State industries minister Narayan Rane’s son Nitesh Rane and eight members of his entourage, including his bodyguards, allegedly smashed a toll plaza in Dhargal near Goa, after they were asked to pay the toll. They allegedly manhandled the toll collecting staff, injuring three of them. They were arrested and Nitesh was granted bail the day after.
August 22: Shiv Sena MLA Anil Kadam from Pimpalgaon, Nashik flew into a rage at a tollbooth near Pimpalgaon Baswant on the Mumbai-Agra highway in Nashik, because he was asked to show his identity card. He broke computers and allegedly abused the all-women staff at the booth. The incident was caught on camera.
August 21: Supporters of Samajwadi Party MLA Abdul Rashid Momin ransacked a tollbooth at Kasheli near Bhiwandi in Thane district and assaulted the staff because the legislator was asked to pay toll.