Transporters call off strike on Govt’s assurance to slash Toll Tax

Commuters suffering as public transport remained off the roads in Jammu on Thursday. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Commuters suffering as public transport remained off the roads in Jammu on Thursday. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Buses, mini-buses remain off roads in entire Jammu region

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Oct 17: The passenger transporters have called off their indefinite strike after an assurance from the administration that a major relief will be given to people from Toll Tax.
“We have called off the strike after we got an assurance from Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma and NHAI authorities regarding reduction in Toll Tax on the basis of which the strike has been called off and passenger transport will ply normally from tomorrow”, T S Wazir president, All J&K Passenger Transporters Association told Excelsior here, today.
He said a meeting with Government representatives and NHAI representatives with transporters will be held next week in which all issues will be discussed threadbare and a decision taken accordingly. “However we in principle have been given assurance on reduction of Toll Tax on passenger and private vehicles by the authorities yesterday on the basis of which the strike has been called off”, he added.
Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma said that with the intervention of Union Minister , Dr Jitendra Singh and other higher ups in the Government al local private vehicles of Samba district have been exempted from the purview tax at newly constructed Toll Plaza at Sarore in Samba district. He said monthly charges from all passenger vehicles will come down from Rs 22000 to Rs 2200. For Samba -Kathua district and other passenger commercial vehicles the rates will be down from Rs 27,000 per month to Rs 7500 per month, he added.
He said the local private vehicles have not to pay any thing and they have been exempted from Toll Tax.
However in protest against installation of Toll Plaza in Sarore area of Samba district along Jammu-Pathankot National Highway, transporters today observed a day long ‘chakka jam’.
The commuters, especially those who have to travel from Jammu to Samba, Kathua or vice versa, had a harrowing time in reaching their destinations.
The Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims and other people coming via Railway were seen moving by foot to their destination at Railway Station as no mini bus also plied on Jammu roads today. However the buses of State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) plied normally.
Hundreds of transporters this morning staged protest and rallied against the toll post installed near Sarore.
They demanded immediate removal of the toll post asserting that it is an additional burden in transporters particularly the buses plying on Jammu-Kathua route.
Meanwhile, social organisation IkkJutt Jammu today asked the authorities to withdraw Toll Plaza forthwith or get ready to face an agitation.
IkkJutt Jammu said the imposition of Toll Tax in Jammu is a willful move on the part of the authorities to wreck Jammu’s economy by discouraging pilgrims to the holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi.
IkkJutt Jammu, chairman Ankur Sharma said it had become the habit of the powers that be to impose such taxes again and again to cripple the Hindu majority Jammu’s economy.
He said that the recent decision of the Government of India to impose heavy Toll Tax at different places on National Highway 44 leading to Katra is an extension of the policy which was adopted by the PDP-BJP Government in 2015 under which 12.5 percent Jiziya was imposed on Chopper services to the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, Baba Amarnath and other Hindu religious places.
This Hindu discriminatory attitude of Government is utterly unacceptable, said Ankur Sharma.
He further said the manner in which the NHAI has flouted its own rules to impose Toll Tax is glaringly evident. “It should be known that the distance between the two toll plazas and from the Municipal limits concerned is a clear indication that the intentions of the authorities are not novel. How could the NHAI set up and propose to set up four toll plazas within a distance of less than 80 kilometers on the same NH 44?,” he questioned.
IkkJutt Jammu Chairman said the Government must explain why it proposed to set up five toll plazas in Jammu and only one in the already rather pampered Kashmir.
“The toll tax in Jammu and Kashmir which will become Union Territory on Oct 31, is a negation of the very concept of the Union Territory. There is no UT in the country where NHAI has imposed such a tax to loot and plunder the citizens,” said Sharma.
Dogra Swabhiman Sangthan (DSS) party Core Group in its meeting held today under the leadership of Dr Haridutt Shishu its general secretary while discussing the hardships and problems being faced by the public and transporters by installing Toll Plaza at Sarore has urged the Governor and State administration to take public concerns seriously regarding the Toll Plaza and suspend the operation of Sarore Toll Plaza in the best interest of the public.
Duggar Manch president, Mohan Singh Slathia has also strongly opposed the installation of Toll Plaza at Sarore and urged the Central Government to abolish it immediately otherwise the massive protests will continue.
Meanwhile youth leader Pankaj Slathia has also demanded immediate abolition of Toll Plaza at Sarore. At a press conference held at Vijaypur today he said the Panches and Sarpanches elected by people to solve their problems have not paid any attention to this burning issue and they are busy in BDC elections. He said though people voted BJP to solve their problems but the party after coming to power at Delhi has added to their woes.