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Moushumi Das Gupta, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 17, 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is prepared to take “tough decisions” in national interest but his road minister Nitin Gadkari certainly does not want to take any chances. At a meeting to discuss toll-related issues, Gadkari on Monday told ministry officials to push its plan to prune the list of “dignitaries” exempted from paying toll on national highways into the deep freezer.

The central government currently allows some 25 categories of VIPs to enjoy the privilege of toll-exemption while travelling on highways. But a road ministry panel had last year recommended that vehicles of only five categories of VIPs – President, vice president, Prime Minister, governor and chief minister – should have the privilege of zipping across highways without paying a penny.

 “Gadkari told officials not to tinker with the existing policy which gives toll exemption to some 25 categories of VIPs. He feels that pruning the list would create unnecessary controversy,” said an official at the National Highways Authority of India.

 The present list of VIPs who are exempted include ministers, judges, MPs, legislators to secretary-rank officers. In practice, toll plazas at many locations are browbeaten into letting other government officers and politicians also pass without payment.

 Besides, Gadkari also instructed officials to fast-track the implementation of inter-operable smart tag based electronic toll collection systems across Indian highways by December.

He also directed officials to get electronic signages installed across all toll plazas which should display all toll-related information.