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Jammu, June 25: After Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government announced abrogation of Article 370 and special status to Jammu and Kashmir, little did the people of Jammu know that while it was an end to the perceived discrimination by Kashmiri leadership, it started an era of toll plazas in the region.

J&K was made a Union Territory after the same was announced by Home Minister Amit Shah from parliament on August 5. The UT came into existence on October 31. Since the day government is setting up one toll plaza after another and new reports of toll plazas has further irked the residents of Jammu.

Now voices are coming up against the BJP who are claiming that the party is working on business model and not like a “savior of Jammu”. There were reports that two new toll plazas are all set to be established at Lakhanpur and Akhnoor that would put further burden on the people of Jammu.

Already there are controversial toll plazas at Sarore on Jammu-Kathua stretch and at Ban on Jammu-Udhampur stretch that have come under severe criticism in the recent past due to alleged overcharging and rude behavior of the employees with the commuters.

There was a toll plaza run by the Excise Department at Lakhanpur, entry point of J&K, which was abolished in December last year after which BJP had garnered praise from the local populace for removing the burden from them. The plaza since decades used to charge a toll even from the private vehicles entering and exiting J&K despite the fact that Excise Department has no role in road building. A new toll plaza is expected at the same place that would be run by a private contractor.

Why are toll plazas coming up in Jammu

It would not be wrong if one says that the toll plazas in Jammu region are raining like cats and dogs. At present there are five tolls in Jammu as per the NHAI.

As per the NHAI Toll Information system, there are five toll plazas in J&K at present. These include Ban, Lakhanpur, Mada, Nashri and Thandikhui. Akhnoor toll plaza is at present not in the list.

Lakhanpur toll plaza has already been added in the list of NHAI toll posts on its official portal that means it would soon start collection.

Opposition takes potshots at BJP

The activists and opposition have now launched an attack against the BJP that had promised development of Jammu. Activists questioned as to why the BJP government was trying to milk Jammu region. They questioned whether there are so many toll plazas in Kashmir region?

A movement namely Toll Satyagrah was launched in October 2019 in Jammu in which students and activists had protested against the J&K administration as well as BJP government in center stating that these tolls were a loot of people’s money. Activists had also alleged that there was someone who was helping to set up so many toll plazas despite the fact that many stretches of the highway were still incomplete or in a bad shape.

Opposition has also alleged that these toll plazas were being built against the norms set by the NHAI. As per NHAI norms,  the distance between two toll plazas must be 60 Kms but the distance between toll at Ban and Sarore is nearly 37 Km.

The road ahead

Two Member Parliaments of BJP from Jammu that include Dr Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma had won with a huge margin in the parliamentary polls last year. Both the MPs had promised that the works that remained incomplete during their last term will be completed. They referred to the developmental works.

While it cannot be contested that Jammu has not seen development in form of new roads network, levying of toll tax on already built roads and highways is not justified without any repairs or maintenance work. Many people in the past have also filed RTIs to know about setting up of toll plazas in Jammu region. It is expected that more people will ask for their right to information regarding the same.

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