The public outrage against toll collection on State Highways has not deterred the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Ltd. (KRDCL) from introducing new booths in nine more spots.
These include the Mudhol-Mahalingapur-Kabbur-Chikkodi-Nippani (NH)-Maharashtra border (107 km); Magadi-Dobbspet-Pavagada–Andhra Pradesh border road (149.25 km); and Malavalli-Maddur-Koratagere Road (135 km), among others. KRDCL executed the agreements with contractors in the last week of July. Collection at the nine State highways will begin shortly, officials said.
In March 2017, the Congress-led Siddaramaiah government had given its approval for toll to be collected on 19 State Highways. However, only three are currently being tolled. In three, KRDCL failed to get takers for tenders issued, while collection in two highways was stopped due to opposition from the public. Collection on two highways Hangal-Tadas and Shivamogga-Shikaripur-Anavatti-Hangal were cancelled as they are being upgraded to national highways.
KRDCL managing director B.S. Shivakumar said toll on identified State Highways is a policy decision of the government. “Roads are developed by KRDCL or Karnataka State Highways Improvement Project. For development, agencies borrow from the market. The user fee collected will help in building infrastructure,” he said.
At present, the Dharwad-Karadigudda-Saundatti Road toll has been suspended after a bridge collapsed due to heavy floods. Collection will resume in two weeks, officials said. Sources added that an average KRDCL generates ₹15 crore income from tolled roads.
Opposition from public
There have been several instances of people staging protests against KRDCL’s move to collect toll. Last year, protesters gathered on the Padubidri-Belman-Karkala State Highway opposing the move to collect toll near Belman village. As protest intensified,the agency identified by the KRDCL ‘deferred’ the plan on the 28-km stretch. The then Opposition BJP too opposed the move.
The KRDCL faced opposition after it proposed toll on the Saundatti-Ramadurga-
Halagatti-Badami-Kamatagi Road (127.26 km).
Former Lokayukta Santosh Hegde said: “The government should maintain transparency in toll collection. I have seen toll being collected for decades despite expenses for the construction being met. Toll should be collected on quid pro quo basis. Agencies must display boards on highways to inform users on how much toll is being collected.”