SRINAGAR Amid resentment over levying of toll tax, the governor Satya Pal Malik on Thursday assured to exempt common people from toll collected by National Highway Authority of India on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Sangam in Anantnag district.
We are taking it up with centre. No toll tax will be imposed on locals, Malik said while talking to the media after inaugurating a grid lock separator near the tourist reception centre grounds here. He said that due to ongoing elections, the things have slowed up a bit.
Asked whether it was his assurance to the people, he said, Locals will not have to pay any toll at all.
The assurance comes two days after people from all walks of life expressed strong resentment over the collection of the toll by NHAI at the toll Post at Chursoo, Sangam.
The toll plaza, set up on May 7, has been collecting toll tax from every vehicle using the highway except those of government forces, ambulances, and vehicles used by VIPs.
Traders, transporters, commoners as well as politicians had expressed serious concern about the impact of levying toll tax on all types of vehicles plying on highway.
On Wednesday, traders and transporters staged a strong protest against the administrations decision to impose toll tax on all types of vehicles plying on Srinagar-Jammu highway.
The protesters under the banner of all traders and transporters joint coordination committee Anantnag termed the order on imposing the toll as Shahi Farman and demand rollback of the harsh and anti-people step.
The traders and transporters had staged the protest demonstration outside the office of Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, demanding that no toll tax shall be charged from common people who are already suffering from prolonged conflict and shattered economy.
They said the toll tax shall be collected from outsiders, heavy vehicles, tourists vehicles and not from local Kashmiri people as this will also increase the fare which will add to the miseries of people particularly poor strata of the society. The order is nothing but anti-people and no government should resort to such anti-people measures, they said, adding Representing the voice of the public against the barbaric “Shahi Farman”, the one never born in a social welfare state. The government should scarp down it and as an emergent response district, Anantnag be exempted from this day toll tariff.
Political parties had also demanded an immediate rollback of the toll tax and some had likened it indirect attack on the special status of state and also a brazen attempt to further weaken the state economy.
“The highway is still incomplete with some bridges still under construction. The economic activity in Kashmir has hit its lowest ebb in the last four years and the decision of levying an exorbitant toll tax will inadvertently put the people under duress,” National Conference had said and urged the governor’s administration to suspend the tax levied at the Charsoo toll plaza.
The PDP had also pitched for the exemption of the toll tax, stating that such a measure would hit the already economically downtrodden people hard.
Former legislator from north Kashmir’s Langate constituency Sheikh Abdul Rashid also sought a rollback of the decision.
“The move is an indirect attack on the special status of state and also a brazen attempt to further weaken the state economy. Paying taxes is no doubt duty of every citizen but first government needs to introspect the fact that J-K is passing through turmoil since long and government has itself failed miserably to provide better roads to the people of state,” Rashid had said.
Former IAS officer Shah Feasal who heads Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement also hit out at the government for first closing the highway to civilian traffic for two days to allow smooth movement of government forces and then levying a heavy road tax “without realising the impact it would have on the local economy”.
He called had upon the government to bring in clarity as to how this new tax will be implemented in view of the concessions given to the state under the GST by which toll is to be collected at Lakhanpur only.
Faesal asked the government to understand the local sensitivities “in view of the ongoing turmoil and not make policies that are seen as deliberate attempts to harass Kashmiris”.