Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday announced scrapping of toll for light motor vehicles and state transport buses at 53 toll tax plazas in the state, barring Mumbai, Mumbai-Pune Expressway and Kolhapur.
Besides, 12 toll plazas -- one run by the Maharashtra State Roads Development Corporation (MSRDC) and 11 by the Maharashtra Public Works Department (PWD) -- will be permanently shutdown from May 31 midnight, Fadnavis said here in the state assembly amidst thumping of desks.
Similarly, of the 53 toll plazas where full toll exemption would be given to LMVs (light motor vehicles) and ST (state transport) buses, 26 belong to MSRDC and 27 belong to PWD.
However, this crucial decision will not apply to Mumbai's five entry and exit points, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway - top money-spinners in the state - and the toll plazas in Kolhapur.
PWD Minister Eknath Shinde told reporters that by this decision, the government will incur an additional burden of around Rs.5 billion per annum which it would reimburse to the MSRDC and PWD.
As far as the Mumbai entry and exit points and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway are concerned, he said, around 90 percent users are small vehicles so it entailed different calculations.
A committee headed by Cooperation Minister Chandrakant Patil will go into the various aspects of the Mumbai entry and exit point toll plazas and a decision on this would be announced by July 31, he added.
According to official estimates, the Mumbai entry and exit points at Dahisar, Thane, Mulund, Airoli and Vashi alone account for a staggering revenue of over Rs.4,000 crore per annum.
About the Kolhapur toll plazas, a committee headed by Eknath Shinde would study and submit its report and recommendations by May 31.
The state government also plans to implement a new toll tax policy from June 1.
Shinde described this as a "fulfilment" of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance's poll promise in the 2014 assembly election.
Most political parties, including the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Swabhimani Sanghatana and social crusader Anna Hazare have protested against toll plazas in the past. They were introduced in 1996 by the Shiv Sena - Bharatiya Janata Party government (1995-1999).
Even cricket legend and Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar voiced his strong opposition to toll taxes in the state, terming it as a "physical and mental toll on citizens" in a letter to Fadnavis on February 20.