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Pay toll for 2.5 yrs more

Bureaucratic bungling may just force you to pay Rs 30 (or more) as toll every time you cross Mumbai’s entry points — for an unexplained 31 months more than originally planned. Zeeshan Shaikh reports.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2009 02:31 IST
Zeeshan Shaikh

Bureaucratic bungling may just force you to pay Rs 30 (or more) as toll every time you cross Mumbai’s entry points — for an unexplained 31 months more than originally planned.

The big picture: The state will earn an additional Rs 256 crore as toll in those 31 months — till 2026.

The whole business began in 2000, when the then Sena-BJP government began levying toll at the five entry points into Mumbai — to recover the Rs 1,500 crore it had borrowed to build 55 new flyovers across Mumbai.

In the nine years since, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has collected Rs 1,000 crore. By its own assessment, the entire borrowing (calculated at Rs 2100 crore, including interest) would be recovered in 14 years and six months from now (2009).

Having said that, MSRDC has now recommended the state government give the toll contract to a single private company (following competitive bidding) — for 17 years and one month.

“Going by our original plans, we could have recovered our costs in 14 years and six months,” a senior MSRDC official said.

Asked why toll will now be collected for 17 years and one month, instead of the originally scheduled 14 years and six months, the MSRDC had no logical explanation. “We have sent our recommendations to the government. It is for them to take a call,” said MSRDC Managing Director Satish Gavai.

Also, despite claiming that the lowest recovery period was a criterion, MSRDC has recommended a bidder quoting 17 years and one month, while rejecting a bid that quoted 14 years.

Transport experts have criticised this abrupt, unexplained extension. “Charging toll for such long periods from motorists entering the city is not right. The government should instead charge a congestion tax on people who use the city's arterial roads,” transport expert Ashok Datar said.

Experts also point out that it is common practise for state agencies to invite fresh tenders if a bid is not in the interest of the people or the exchequer.

Recently, the National Textile Corporation rejected a record bid for its mill in Mumbai because it did not match its required amount. Why can’t the government do that in this case as well?

The state will make its final decision on this contract only after the impending Assembly elections are through.