Friday, February 28, 2014

TOLLGATE: Pressure on Chavan to scrap booths with eye on elections

Mumbai: Pressure is building on chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to remove toll booths in and around the metropolis if he is serious about providing relief to the aam admi, a day after he declared that he was prepared to amend the policy.

A senior bureaucrat said if Chavan, public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation chairman Jaidutta Kshirsagar are keen to provide relief to people, they must initiate steps for the removal of booths at Mulund, Airoli, Vashi, LBS Marg and Dahisar.

“The government must initiate steps for the removal of booths. It must negotiate with the entrepreneur, who has the contract for collection of toll. Pay him the entire amount of Rs 3,000 crore and remove the booths, it will help the ruling party in the Lok Sabha polls,’’ the bureaucrat said.

Mumbai Entry Point Limited managing director Jayant Mhaiskar said the proposal was acceptable. “No doubt, we will have to examine if there is a buy-back clause, but I am ready for an agreement in larger public interest,’’ Mhaiskar told TOI.

He said they entered into an agreement for maintenance of 27 flyovers in and around Mumbai and setting up of infrastructure projects at a cost of Rs 2,100 crore, and in lieu secured a contract for collection of toll at the five booths. “It’s a publicprivate partnership project. We have been given rights for collection up to 2026. If the government feels the contract should be terminated, it should pay us Rs 3,000 crore,’’ Mhaiskar said.

Mhaiskar, who was never called by Chavan for negotiations or a discussion on the agitation launched by MNS, said the government can provide relief to people if it accepts the Madhya Pradesh model. “There is no toll for private vehicles on twolane roads; only commercial vehicles have to pay in MP,’’ he said.

Mhaiskar said it appeared the agitation was against government policy and not against an individual developer. “The PPP model has been accepted all over. The state government will not abolish it,’’ he said.

A senior NCP minister said Chavan had to draft a plan for abolition of booths at least in and around Mumbai, or the Congress would have to pay a heavy price in the Lok Sabha and assembly polls. “Funds can be mobilized from Mhada or MMRDA, which have surplus,” he said.
Prafulla Marpakwar TNN

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