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Truckers demand probe into illegal toll tax

Shillong, Feb. 18: The Goalpara District Truck Owners’ Association today demanded a CBI probe into the operation of “illegal” tollgates along National Highway 62 where a staggering Rs 1.75 crore is being allegedly collected from approximately 500-odd trucks per day.

The association has already begun observing an indefinite strike of coal-laden vehicles plying along National Highway 62 and National Highway 37, and those plying along Shallang (West Khasi Hills) Hahim via Boko in protest against the “illegal collection”.

It has also warned that it would resort to an “economic blockade” from February 24 onwards if its demand to dismantle the tollgates were not met. Trucks carrying diesel, petrol, kerosene, and LPG cylinders would not be plying from February 24 onwards for an indefinite period.

Addressing reporters here, association president Abul Kalam Hussain said there are several “illegal” tollgates, which have been established along National Highway 62, which is a 132km stretch from Damra in Assam to Meghalaya’s South Garo Hills district.

There are approximately 500-odd trucks, which use the highway regularly, Hussain said, adding that the total amount being paid by these trucks per day runs to around Rs 1.75 crore.

The association also submitted a memorandum to top officials in the state government wherein they enlisted the “illegal” tollgates operating along the highway.

“The amount collected from per truck at the illegal tollgates ranges from Rs 35,000 to Rs 45,000. There are no less than 200 people who are manning each illegal tollgate,” Hussain said.

He also said for the past two years, the rates collected from the trucks have increased manifold. Earlier, the amount collected was between Rs 9,000 and Rs 10,000.

Hussain said earlier, about 10,000 trucks were used for the purpose of carrying coal from Meghalaya. However, he said, currently, there are hardly 2,000 trucks plying along National Highway 62, National Highway 44 (E), and Boko via Hahim to Shallang road for coal trade.

“The reason behind this drop is nothing but because of illegal and forceful collection of huge amount of money from the unauthorised gates installed by the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) and some NGOs,” he said.

At the same time, the association outlined the discrepancy in the collection of toll from Assam and Meghalaya truckers. For instance, in four tollgates in the North Garo Hills, Assam truckers have to pay a total sum of Rs 1,700 while Meghalaya truckers pay Rs 500 only.

Collection from loaded trucks in four tollgates from Jaddi to Dainadubi along National Highway 62 is Rs 3,200 from Assam truckers and Rs 500 for Meghalaya truckers.

In Williamnagar under East Garo Hills, there are 10 tollgates where Assam truckers have to pay altogether Rs 6,500 while Meghalaya truckers pay only Rs 2,200.

In Resubelpara in North Garo Hills, 14 tollgates are in operation where Assam truckers have to pay Rs 4,000 each while Meghalaya truckers pay Rs 1,000. Moreover, the association pointed out a discrepancy for money being collected within Meghalaya. Trucks plying to Boko via Hahim to Shallang road have to pay Rs 2,000 as directorate of mineral resources (DMR) charges and Rs 800 as sales tax every 25.500 million tonnes (mt) of coal. But in the Garo hills, the DMR charges are Rs 7,287 and sales tax is Rs 1,910 for the same amount of coal-laden truck.

The association claimed that on account of such “illegal” collection, 80 per cent of coal traders in lower Assam have been compelled to discontinue their business.

If the Meghalaya government is reluctant to crack the whip on those who indulge in such corrupt operations, the association has threatened to take up the matter with New Delhi. At the same time, the association has threatened to name those politicians who are allegedly involved in operating these “illegal” tollgates later in a news conference in New Delhi.