Parliamentarians will soon get free passage through all the 350 toll plazas in the country.
MPs and their entourage enjoy the privilege at 290 plazas already but have to pay at the remaining 60 which came up between 2008 and 2010.
When toll rules were amended in 2010, MPs were granted exemption. But that did not apply to the 60 odd plazas where toll was collected under rules framed in 2008 that did not exempt MPs. After demands by fellow parliamentarians, highways minister Nitin Gadkari has approved a proposal to make those 60 plazas toll-free for MPs.
“We are coming out with a notification. It’s just making the toll rules for MPs uniform across India. Why should the toll-free rule not apply on some highways where contracts were awarded before 2010 when the exemption for MPs was introduced in the rules?” a source said.
The ministry and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have refused to divulge how much toll revenue is lost because of the exemption to MPs. “There are no consolidated figures as to how much it costs the exchequer,” an NHAI official said.
Previous attempts by the ministry to curtail the privilege given to VIPs, including MPs, have failed to pass muster.
Last August, for instance, the ministry moved a cabinet note proposing that while the existing list of 25 VIP categories including the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and MPs, among others, exempted from toll continued to enjoy the privilege, the number of VIPs whose entourage did not have to pay be curtailed. The proposal was brushed under the carpet, fearing a VIP backlash.