Keonjhar: The National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) trick to mop up more tolls by bifurcating National Highway-215 and installing three toll gates around the Keonjhar town has sparked anger among the locals and commuters as well, a report said.
The move in a poor and tribal dominated district like Keonjhar has drawn criticisms from every quarter. Residents claim that establishment of three toll gates following bifurcation of NH-215 is burning a hole in their pocket.
They demanded immediate removal of Banajodi toll gate near Padmapur on the outskirts of Keonjhar town.
The residents were hopeful that the toll gates will be removed after Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said in the Parliament that the toll plazas can operate only within 60-km distance on the highways.
However, nothing of this sort happened. Shailabala Palei, a member of Yuva and Shrama Vikash Manch, has termed the move as ‘unfortunate’.
She said if the NHAI authorities do not remove the toll gate, they will be held responsible for any situation that may arise in future.
Reports said NH-215 connecting Panikoili in Jajpur district with Rajamunda in Sundargarh district was the first highway passing through Keonjhar district.
The highway was the lifeline for the residents as it helped them get easy access to major cities in the state. Soon, it was allegedly split into two highways with a hope of collecting more tolls.
One of the highways connecting Panikoili with Rimuli was renamed as NH-20 and another connecting Rimuli with Rajamunda as NH-520.
Later, one toll gate was established at Hasanpur, which is only 33km from Panikoili, while another toll gate was established on the highway between Hasanpur to Khantaghar (near Dhenkikote) which is 58.9km from the first toll gate.
The third toll gate was established at Banajodi on the highway which is 42km from the second toll gate.
Meanwhile, those travelling from Anandapur to Cuttack or Bhubaneswar are paying tolls at three toll plazas – Hasanpur, Panikoili and Tangi. The distance between toll gates at Tangi and Panikoili is around 50 km.
So, as per Gadkari’s statement, Panikoili toll plaza must cease to operate, said sources.