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Flout finger at toll company

NO SOLUTION: Vehicles at the toll gate on the highway at Pipili. Picture by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar: People approaching Puri to take part in the ongoing rath yatra festival are facing a harrowing time crossing the Pipili toll gate as the staff posted there are allegedly stopping vehicles and collecting tolls violating a government that had asked the toll collection agency to stop taking tax during the festive period.

Like every other year, the public works department communicated to the toll gate officials asking them not to collect toll on select days of rath yatra to ensure congestion-free passage of the visitors and devotees since the long wait at the toll gate enhances the trip time to the pilgrim city.

In the letter communicated to the O.B. and C.C. Limited, which collects toll tax at Pipili, the PWD stated that no fees shall be collected on July 13 ( nabajauban besha), July 14 (Gundicha yatra), July 21 (sandhya darshan), July 22 ( bahuda yatra) and July 23 (suna besha).

Besides, the toll gate near Pipili on the Puri bypass, other gates - such as the one near the Kushabadra Bridge, on Biraharekrushnapur-Baliguali road and near Ratnachira Bridge on new Jagannath Sadak - have also been asked not to collect tolls on the five days.

"I planned a visit to Puri with my family on the day of the rath yatra on July 14. I knew that the state government asked the toll collecting agencies not to collect toll at Pipili," said Sangram Nayak, a resident of Nayapalli.

"But I was surprised to see a beeline of vehicles at the Pipili toll gate."

A similar incident happened with a city-based journalist who went to Puri to cover the festival on July 14. The journalist working with a vernacular newspaper argued with the toll gate officials that they were collecting tax illegally, but in vain.

"They are just defying the government order and taking the opportunity of the festival to increase their revenue," said the journalist.

According the rates fixed for vehicles at Pipili toll gate, the fees for a light vehicle is Rs 110, a small transport vehicles Rs 175, for buses and trucks Rs 355, for multi-axle vehicles Rs 550 and for other oversised vehicles Rs 690. The fees have been collected for a two-way ride to and from Puri.

PWD undersecretary Lingaraj Naik, who had issued the letter to the O.B. and C.C. Limited, said that people should come forward to raise objection if the company was collecting tax illegally.

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