The contentious issue of the abolition of toll taxes for small vehicles in the state of Maharashtra resurfaced on Monday, with both the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Congress party accusing the state government of large-scale corruption in toll tax collection.
The Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) President, Varsha Gaikwad, took to the microblogging site X to express her concerns. In her post, she wrote, “Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has accepted the large-scale corruption.” She also highlighted that MNS workers had staged protests at various toll plazas across the state in response to Raj Thackeray, the MNS Chief, who referred to toll collection as the biggest scam and warned the government of the need for reform.
The toll tax issue has a history in Maharashtra. When Devendra Fadnavis served as the Chief Minister of the state in 2015, he abolished toll taxes for all four-wheelers at 53 toll plazas while simultaneously closing down 12 toll plazas. Additionally, a decision to compensate toll plaza operators was made in 2017, with a government resolution issued on August 31, 2017.
Fadnavis responded to the allegations by circulating his statement in the assembly, along with the government resolution, after Raj Thackeray accused toll collection of being the state’s biggest scam. However, his response did not appease the critics.
MRCC President Varsha Gaikwad questioned the destination of the substantial revenue collected over the past five years, demanding a thorough investigation. She stated, “Fadnavis has, in a way, accepted the corruption in toll collection. Now it needs to be determined whose pockets this money is going into?”
Balasaheb Thorat, another senior Congress leader, also criticized the government’s handling of the toll tax issue. He pointed out the deteriorating state of major roads, citing the example of the Mumbai-Nashik highway, where potholes and traffic snarls have become common. Thorat questioned why citizens should pay toll taxes if the roads are not adequately maintained.
Thorat noted that the Congress party had raised its concerns during the monsoon session and received assurances from the government for resolution. However, he expressed disappointment that the government had not fulfilled its promise.
In response to the accusations, MNS workers staged protests at several toll plazas across the state. They even screened Deputy Chief Minister Fadnavis’ video about the exemption of small four-wheelers from toll tax at 53 toll plazas to raise awareness about the issue. At some toll plazas near Mumbai, they pressured toll operators to allow vehicles to pass without charging toll taxes.
The toll tax controversy in Maharashtra continues to be a contentious issue, with political parties and citizens demanding transparency and accountability in the collection and allocation of toll revenues.