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Toll fee exemption hoardings on NHs may be history soon

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NEW DELHI: In a move aimed at pruning

VIP culture

, govt may do away with the huge

hoardings

placed ahead of

NH toll plazas

, which mention details of dignitaries and persons whose vehicles are exempted from paying user fee.
The suggestion was made last week at a secretary-level meeting, chaired by the cabinet secretary, and this, sources said, could be one of the priority actions of the new govt.

To effect this change, govt only needs to amend the NH Fee Rules.
Sources argue that placing such hoardings has little relevance and is a waste of

public money

since govt has provided “exempted”

FASTags

to vehicles that qualify for fee exemption at toll plazas. Additionally, few people bother to see the list put up at toll gate hoardings.
The current rule specifies that the executing authority (highway authority) must prominently display in Hindi and English the list of 22 dignitaries whose vehicles and accompanying ones are exempted from paying toll 1 km ahead of a toll plaza, and in English and the local language 500 metres ahead of a toll plaza.

The list also includes official vehicles of five agencies, including the defence ministry, state armed and police forces, NHAI and fire-fighting vehicles. Ambulances are exempted as well.
Sources said there have been numerous instances when officers and VIPs using private vehicles have sought exemptions, leading to arguments with toll operators and congestion.
NHAI is considering the option of earmarking one lane for exempted-category vehicles.

Associate director emeritus at US National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) and a resident of Jaipur Prithvi Singh Kandhal, who first flagged the wastage of public money to NHAI, the highway ministry, and PMO in 2017, said govt should have curtailed wasteful expenditure.
In his letter, he wrote: “These signs not only depict our VIP culture but also demonstrate the wastage of public money by govt… Those who are exempted from paying toll know about it because govt notified their offices. Those who are not VIPs or dignitaries know their name or designation is not listed there. It is simply an exercise in futility… I have travelled in North America, South America, Europe, China, and Australia. I have not seen such huge signs. Usually, all including VIPs pay toll, get a receipt, and then claim the amount as travel expense. There is no VIP culture there.”

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