MNS workers vandalise tollbooths across state

Jan 28, 2014, 13:32 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav and Jeet Dalvi

MNS workers go on rampage after party chief Raj Thackeray asks them to crush toll plazas; diktat issued at the inauguration of party office in Navi Mumbai on Sunday

Following orders from the party patriarch Raj Thackeray, members of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) went on a rampage and vandalised several booths in the state to prevent them from collecting toll.

MNS members march towards Dahisar toll plaza
MNS members march towards Dahisar toll plaza

A few of the booths that sustained damage in the rampage were located at Dahisar, Mulund, Airoli, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Pune, Aurangabad, Sangli, Nagpur and Khalapur on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. However, later in the day tollbooths functioned normally under heavy police cover.

Police platoon stand guard outside Dahisar toll plaza to prevent MNS workers from vandalising it. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Police platoon stand guard outside Dahisar toll plaza to prevent MNS workers from vandalising it. Pics/Nimesh Dave

In 2012, MNS workers had gone on a similar rampage, vandalising tollbooths across the state. Speaking at the inauguration function of the party office in Navi Mumbai on Sunday, Thackeray ordered: “If there is any instance of toll collection, just crush the toll plazas. If there is a traffic jam let it be, let the situation take its own course. Do not bother, just don’t pay toll at any of the booths.”

An attendant operates from a broken booth window at Mulund toll Plaza yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande
An attendant operates from a broken booth window at Mulund toll Plaza yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande

Toll plazas operated by the Mumbai Entry Point Limited (MEPL), which collects toll at five entry points to the city, bore the brunt of Thackeray’s diktat. Around 10 pm on Sunday, MNS workers vandalised the tollbooth at Dahisar, followed by Mulund toll plaza on the Eastern Express Highway (EEH) and Airoli toll plaza on Mulund-Airoli Road.

MEPL Director Jayant Mahiskar said, “On Sunday night the workers of a political party reached our toll plazas at Dahisar, Mulund and Airoli following which we registered a complaint at local police stations. We have also provided CCTV footage to the police officials, so that they could initiate appropriate action.”

He added that damage was done by MNS workers to the property. Toll collection at all the booths went smoothly under police protection yesterday. “We suffered losses due to the damage done to property, but at this point it will be too early to comment on the same.”

MNS MLA Pravin Darekar and party workers protested at Dahisar toll plaza yesterday, leading to traffic jams. Darekar and a few of his men were detained, following which toll collection resumed and traffic attained normalcy. Vashi toll plaza was vandalised in the evening.

At 9.15 pm on Sunday, the Airoli-Mulund bridge road was blocked by an unknown group, whose members were later identified as MNS workers. “A passer-by, Gyanesh Honmukhi, spotted an MNS flag on the dashboard of one of the cars of the vandals,” said a security guard at the Airoli toll plaza. “The Airoli check naka was blocked. MNS members pelted stones at the booth.”

They damaged cabins and computers using lathis and threatened the attendants.” The MNS has justified its stand against toll collection, citing the pothole-ridden roads in the state. Kandivli resident Jatin Doshi said, “I am happy that the MNS is protesting against the toll collection. But I hope this isn’t a political gimmick. Rather than vandalising toll plazas, the party should take up this issue with government and find an amicable solution.”

Did you know?
The MEPL bagged the contract of collecting toll at five entry points to Mumbai on November 20, 2010 and will collect toll for 16 years till November 19, 2026.

Police action
>> Navghar police officials registered a case against 25 unidentified individuals for vandalising Mulund-Airoli tollbooth, but arrested none
>> After Dahisar tollbooth was ransacked on two occasions, police arrested four MNS workers. They were later handed over to the Navghar police
>> 33 MNS workers (20 male and 13 female) were arrested yesterday. They were out on bail by evening

“We pay Rs 75 for travelling one way daily. I drive a diesel truck and it’s unaffordable if we are asked to pay toll every 100 km. Moreover, roads near Mulund check naka are uneven at some places and are marred with traffic jams in the evening. I personally believe in protesting against collection of toll, but resorting to violence to drive the point home is incorrect.”
- Chandrakant Patil, a driver at Vaibhav Transport

“It has been almost 10 years since the roads were constructed, but even today they collect toll. At Mulund check naka, the attendants take ages to hand over receipts, causing traffic jams. We are not against toll, but operators should deliver better roads for which they are collecting tax. It is good that someone is taking up this issue. But the parties should ensure that toll collection stops, at least till the time roads are repaired.”
- Praveen Shirke, a driver at Aabaji Roadway

Rs 2,100 cr
Amount MEPL paid to MSRDC for collecting toll

Rs 85 lakh
Approximate collection at the five MEPL plazas daily

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