Mumbai: Aaditya Thackeray, an MLA of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), has alleged irregularities in toll assortment by the Maharashtra State Highway Improvement Company (MSRDC) Ltd at Mulund and Dahisar cubicles which fall on the Jap Specific Freeway (EEH) and Western Specific Freeway (WEH), respectively.
The cubicles are two of 5 entry factors into Mumbai, the opposite being Vashi, Airoli and Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) Marg.
In a letter written Sunday to municipal commissioner-administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal of Mumbai’s civic physique Brihanmumbai Municipal Company (BMC), Thackeray demanded that the toll plazas at Mumbai’s 5 entry factors be scrapped. ThePrint has accessed the letter.
He identified that the Maharashtra authorities had transferred the upkeep of WEH and EEH — Mumbai’s key arterial roads — to the BMC in November 2022, whereas the MSRDC was getting the toll from these roads.
“The toll cash being collected goes to the MSRDC coffers, whereas the BMC maintains the roads,” he wrote, including “why ought to Mumbaikars pay toll now to the MSRDC when the upkeep of the WEH and EEH is beneath BMC which already expenses us with a ‘road tax’, amongst many others”.
He highlighted that Mumbaikars have been “being unfairly charged twice” for the “highways and bridges that they may now pay for by way of BMC taxes” and “that are so badly maintained”.
At a press convention Monday, Thackeray had particularly known as for scrapping of the Mulund and Dahisar cubicles on the EEH and WEH.
In his letter, he additionally identified that income from commercial hoardings alongside the WEH and EEH “apparently goes to the MSRDC even at this time, after the handover” when “it ought to really go on to the BMC”.
“All the cash goes to the state authorities and the MSRDC. The federal government ought to give you a one-time settlement within the curiosity of residents. In the event that they don’t do it then it’s clear they’re working for contractors,” Thackeray stated on the press convention, including that if the Shiv Sena (UBT) got here to energy, it could cease toll collections throughout Mumbai.
In 2010, the Maharashtra authorities had given the contract to gather toll at Mumbai’s 5 entry factors to the non-public firm MEP Infrastructure Pvt Ltd.
MEP states on its web site that it was given a contract for “upkeep of, and assortment of toll at, the 5 Mumbai entry factors together with 27 flyovers and sure allied buildings on the Sion-Panvel Freeway, the Western Specific Freeway hall, the Jap Specific Freeway hall, the Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg hall and the Airoli Bridge hall”.
Responding to Thackeray’s allegations, Radheshyam Mopalwar, vice-chairman of MSRDC, advised ThePrint that the toll collected at Mulund and Dahisar cubicles was by no means meant for sustaining the EEH and WEH highways however was for working and sustaining 55 flyovers constructed throughout Mumbai by the MSRDC.
“This toll is in keeping with the contract for 55 flyovers in Mumbai and never about EEH or WEH,” he stated.
“Toll assortment is for constructing and operation and upkeep prices for flyovers that have been constructed within the late Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s,” he asserted, including that “the contract with MEP Infrastructure Pvt Ltd is until the tip of 2026”.
The demand to scrap toll assortment throughout Mumbai has additionally been put forth by Pravin Wategaonkar, lawyer and activist, who has, over the previous decade, filed a number of toll-related public curiosity litigation (PILs) within the Bombay Excessive Court docket.
“The toll assortment at Mumbai entry factors and on Mumbai-Pune Expressway is a fraud performed on the folks,” he advised ThePrint.
Aaditya Thackeray’s demand to scrap the toll cubicles has additionally sparked a political struggle with the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which has campaigned towards toll cubicles throughout the state prior to now, present media studies.
It has additionally introduced again deal with the Mumbai entry level toll contract which had stoked controversy in 2010, when it was awarded to MEP.
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The MSRDC had reportedly constructed flyovers in Mumbai at a price of Rs 1,065.25 crore, excluding curiosity. The development was a build-operate-transfer venture, the fee for which was to be recovered by charging toll, promoting and levying a cess on petrol and diesel.
In 2010, the company floated a set tender of Rs 2,100 crore to get better the price of the flyover venture in addition to securitise toll assortment (through which the federal government will get cash upfront to fund different infrastructure initiatives) on the 5 entry factors.
The MSRDC lastly gave the contract to MEP for 16 years from November 2010 to November 2026, whereas different bidders, a few of whom had quoted a lesser interval for restoration, have been disqualified on technical grounds, stated media studies.
The state finance division reportedly raised considerations concerning the contract and it was identified that the MSRDC had already recovered the flyover venture price over time.
The MSRDC had been amassing toll on the 5 entry factors from 1999-2000 by way of non-public contractors.
In 2016, a CAG report said that the MSRDC had already recovered the price of the flyovers it had constructed throughout Mumbai.
Proper to Data (RTI) activist Anil Galgali, who had sought knowledge on toll assortment at Mumbai’s entry factors in 2016, advised ThePrint that in keeping with the data obtained, the MSRDC had spent round Rs 1,000 crore on varied flyovers throughout the town.
Galgali stated he had written to Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde and each deputy CMs requesting them to make Mumbai toll-free after 2026.
“Many flyovers have been constructed previous to 2000 at the price of the state exchequer, for which toll continues to be being collected. Additionally, non-public entities like MEP Infrastructure are being given a chance to earn enormous earnings, which is stunning as a result of now EEH and WEH are being maintained by the BMC,” he stated.
In March this 12 months, Maharashtra introduced that the Mumbai Metropolitan Area Improvement Authority (MMRDA) would get the suitable to gather toll from 2027 onwards, after MEP’s contract will get over. The MMRDA is chaired by CM Shinde.
Toll sales space politics
Whereas the Shiv Sena (UBT) is highlighting the problem of toll assortment, the MNS, too, has taken up the matter a number of occasions.
Between 2012 and 2014, the celebration had highlighted the problem of alleged corruption and lack of transparency in highway toll contracts. Its marketing campaign subsequently even led to over 60 toll plazas being shut throughout Maharashtra.
Final month, the MNS as soon as once more tried to revive the toll situation when celebration staff allegedly vandalised a toll sales space on the Mumbai-Nagpur expressway after Amit Thackeray, son of celebration chief Raj Thackeray, was stopped there.
A day after Aaditya Thackeray raised the toll sales space situation, MNS chief Ameya Khopkar Tuesday took to social media to slam the Shiv Sena (UBT), led by former Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray.
“Below the management of Raj Thackeray, 65 toll cubicles throughout the state have been shut down. We don’t simply communicate, we act. Why did you not demand to close the toll cubicles when Uddhav Thackeray was the CM? Why give empty guarantees? Individuals are actually bored with the empty talks. When you have the center, do what we did,” he wrote in Marathi.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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