While the state government’s ambitious Samruddhi Mahamarg, the Mumbai- Nagpur super communication highway is facing stern protest from farmers, this information about the highway under RTI may spark new controversy. According to the information, the 710 kilometre proposed highway will have as many as 31 toll plazas which toll activists are already opposing.The Samruddhi Mahamarg (prosperity highway) will run through ten districts and connect Mumbai and Nagpur. It is also considered as a dream project of the state government as once it is completed, the highway will connect backward regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha with growing regions of Mumbai and Thane. However, since the most part of the land which is to be acquired for the highway is agricultural land, the farmers community has been staging protests against the proposed highway and state government is trying its best to pacify the protest.Also readMumbai-Nagpur E-way: Trust deficit hits land acquisitionNow amidst the protests and government’s countering strategy, Pune based toll activist Sanjay Shirodkar had filed RTI with the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) seeking details of projected toll plazas situated on the proposed Samruddhi Mahamarg. In the reply to his RTI, he has got the information that the proposed highway will have 31 toll plazas. Speaking to DNA, Shirodkar said, “While feasibility study and other such reports related to the proposed highway are yet to be completed, the state government has already finalised the locations of toll plaza on the highway which is still at the primary stage.”Also readNo runway on Mumbai-Nagpur E-wayAfter finding out that the highway will have 31 toll plazas, Shirodkar claimed that finalising 31 toll plazas on 710 kilometre highway is a clear violation of the state government’s toll policy. “In 2009, the state government came up with toll policy. According to the policy, the distance between two toll plazas on the same highway should not be less than 35 to 40 kilometre. However, if we calculate the number of toll plazas against the total length of the highway, the distance between two toll plazas on Samruddhi Mahamarg will be around 22 kilometres only. It clearly suggests that the state government is violating its own toll policy,” Shirodkar said. Shirodkar who has been fighting against the toll collection at various highways has filed some public interest litigation in the court, particularly in connection with toll collection of Mumbai- Pune expressway. Shirodkar stated that the present government in the state came to power by promising that they will be ending the toll culture in the state, however, now instead of shutting down toll plazas, they are opening new ones. “This information of RTI clearly shows that the government before coming to power had given false promises of shutting toll plazas. They are not bothered about the common people. They are more concerned about toll collection and therefore the first thing which they have done is to finalise 31 toll plazas on the proposed Samruddhi Mahamarg,” Shirodkar said.
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