Chaos and confusion prevailed in south Kashmir a day after National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) started levying road tax on Kashmir highway.
On Tuesday NHAI started set up a toll plaza set up at Kachachkot here in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. As per order of NHAI every vehicle passing through the toll plaza will be charged Rs 85. Therefore, Rs 170 will be charged per day on any vehicle moving to and fro on the highway.
The authorities also declared that toll tax is not applicable for people living within the radius of 20 kilometers from the toll plaza. NHAI also issued a list of villages which will receive monthly pass, an exemption of payment of fee.
But people questioned about those falling beyond the limits. “I do not know the logic of this order. What if someone falls beyond 20 Kms. Like I live in Khanabal locality of Anantnag district, 22 kms distance from toll plaza how I can pay toll tax,” said a local Bashir Ahmad.
The drivers, commuters, traders, students and employees castigated the toll tax and termed the order outrageous and injustice with common people.
Everyday I pay Rs 150 as fuel charges to and fro from my home to workshop located in Anantnag. Now I have to pay further 170 as toll tax which means more than what I pay for fuel. The charges are not only hefty but beyond one’s imagination,” said a mechanic Nisar Ahmad of Kharmoud Awantipora.
Another traveler showing a receipt of Rs 85 collected as toll by NHAI told Greater Kashmir that he belongs to Awantipora and was taking his ailing mother to district hospital Anantnag. “Twice a week I have to take my diabetic mother to the hospital in Anantnag. Why should I pay 255 as monthly pass and why can’t we get exemption,” asked Mohammad Amin.
He requested NHAI and Jammu and Kashmir government to revoke order to give common people a respite.
The people from remote areas of Anantnag and Kulgam termed the order unjust. While as the people from far flung areas like Larnoo Kokernag, Kapran Dooru, Lowermunda and Pahalgam demanded the exemption from toll tax.
“We often have no money to pay bus fare then how can we pay this hefty toll tax,” said an elderly man of Kapran Dooru.
As the toll was made operational people from all walks of life have protested against it and refused to pay. Both traders as well as transporters on Wednesday held a protest against the imposition of toll tax.
The traders and transporters staged a protest outside the office of deputy commissioner Anantnag asking him to exempt the toll tax on common people who are already suffering from prolonged conflict and shattered economy.
The protesters under the banner of all traders and manufacturers association Anantnag, Sumo Stand Union Janglatmandi, Bus and Matador Associations submitted a joint memorandum before DC Anantnag demanding revocation of the decision to levy toll tax on passengers.
When contacted an official at NHAI told Greater Kashmir that new order will be issued soon to clear all the confusions among the people. “We are discussing all the concerns people are expressing and a new order will be issued in a week,” he said.