As per the government directive, the toll plaza on national highways across the country has resumed operation from 20th April. In view of improving conditions, the Indian government is slowly reviving from the setback due to COVID-19 to get back on track.
National highway authority of India (NHAI), as well as highway developers, has resumed collection at toll plazas. The Ministry has also said maintenance of roads and availability of emergency resources at toll plaza will continue as usual. The central government has suspended the toll collection in all national highways from March 25 to ease emergency services in view of the Coronavirus outbreak. This decision was taken not only to ease the inconvenience but also to save critical time and to ensure the continuity of essential supplies.
“In view of relaxations provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs for the interstate and intrastate movement of all trucks and other goods/carrier vehicles. NHAI should take necessary action for compliance of the orders of Ministry of Home affairs and tolling operations be resumed w.e.f 20th of April 2020" the Ministry of road transport and highways said in a letter to NHAI.
However, this move is not received well by transport fraternity. The transporters apex body All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) commented on the decision, “This is appallingly preposterous. On one hand, the government wants the continuity of essential supplies and which our fraternity is doing against all odds and even loss in service of the nation". AIMTC serves as the voice of 95 lakh truckers and transport entities.
The AIMTC president Mr.Kultaran Singh Atwal said, “The entire transport fraternity is financially broke and does not have finance for operations and bringing back drivers either, which is another big challenge. Yet the government instead of extending this sector a helping hand by bare minimum rescue package submitted by AIMTC is burdening it with toll charges that account for 20% of the operating costs".
On the other hand, the government is backing the decision stating “It has been further highlighted that user fee collection contributes to the government exchequer and also provides financial strength to NHAI in terms of budgetary support" as mentioned in the letter.
Rating agency ICRA had earlier said that amidst the Coronavirus lockdown, the toll collection will see a dip of about 3% in the current fiscal and that NHAI is subjected to a hefty loss of Rs. 18.2 Billion due to 40 days suspension of toll collection.