The drive on national highways may be a zip, with road ministry planning to exempt buses and private vehicles - cars, jeeps and two-wheelers - from toll across the country.
The Nitin Gadkari-led road transport and highways ministry's plan to spare buses and non-commercial vehicles from paying toll would cost the exchequer Rs 27,000 crore over a five-year period between 2014 and 2019, sources said.
In a proposal being readied for the prime minister's office, the ministry has called for making good the loss by a Rs 1 increase in the cess on petrol and diesel and a one-time fee - 2% of the cost - on the purchase of new personal vehicle. Existing private vehicle owners would also have to chip in by a one-time payment of Rs 1,000.
Officials said rather than just making up for the losses, the new revenue plan could even make the government richer.Giving projections for 2014-15 post exemption, the ministry said the government would earn Rs 32,609 crore if its three-pronged revenue plan was accepted. This is much higher than the estimated Rs 26,290 crore revenue that would be generated after tolling all vehicles and the Rs 2 fuel cess.
In recent years, anger has been growing with incidents of violence being reported from many parts of the country over having to pay toll on poorly-maintained national highways. Closer home, the government has had to shut down the Delhi-Gurgaon toll plaza due to traffic jams and huge protests.
Gadkari, who is giving final touches to the proposal, has already sounded out the PMO which appeared to be on the same page, sources said.
"The PMO has conveyed that they wanted a detailed presentation on the proposal before the PM takes the final call," an official told HT.
The proposal stems from a National Highways Authority of India study on the traffic pattern at toll plazas. It turned out that passenger vehicles were responsible for congestion at these barriers but contributed only 14% of the total collections.
"If we remove toll on such vehicles, it will go a long way in reducing congestion," said an official.
The ministry's proposal to raise the cess and make all motorists pay for the expansion of highways might be unfair on people who do not use these roads.
But, a senior road transport ministry official insisted this was "a flawed argument". "By this logic, only people who have children should pay the education cess," he said.