After an outpour of complaints from people about being stuck in long queues and traffic jams for not having sufficient lower denomination notes, the Maharashtra government decided to declare all state roads to be toll-tax free until the midnight of November 11.
Similarly, the Union government has also decided to scrap toll on all national highways till the midnight of November 11, so that people have sufficient time to cope with the sudden decommissioning of Rs500 and Rs1,000 denomination currency notes.
Several regular commuters appealed to the state government on Wednesday to suspend toll collection after bracing long queues and fights with toll booth operators over change. However, PWD minister Chandrakant Patil had initially cast the suggestion away, fearing it may not be financially feasible and will bring up technical hurdles.
Following chaos at toll booths such as those on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and at the five entry points of the city, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis directed all toll operators to accept Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes, warning of strict action against those who don’t.
“The Maharashtra government has decided that all state roads will be toll-tax free until 11th November midnight,” Fadnavis tweeted on Wednesday evening.
Motorists were stuck in long queues on Wednesday morning at the toll booth on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the toll collection points at the five entry points of Mumbai and the Bandra-Worli sea link with toll operators refusing to accept high-value notes. Several had heated arguments with the toll booth operators over change, said commuters. At some toll booths, attendants could not tender change owing to shortage of currency notes of lower denominations.
Sanjay Shirodkar from the Sajag Nagrik Manch, which has been fighting for scrapping of toll, wrote a letter to the chief minister saying, “In the backdrop of the Centre’s decision, the chaos at the toll booths is likely to remain for at least a week as people are running short of change to pay for toll. To avoid brawls and untoward incidents, we urge you to suspend toll collection for at least a week.”
There was similar chaos at prime stations of the 11.4-km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro, with the Metro operator, the Reliance Infrastructure-led Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), also refusing to accept Rs500 and Rs1,000 denomination notes. MMOPL officials initially said the organisation was sticking to the Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines.
An official said, although as per guidelines Indian Railways can accept the higher denomination notes that the Union government decided to decommission from Wednesday, Metro corridors in the country, except the Kolkata Metro, do not function as per Indian Railways Act.
By afternoon, Fadnavis said, “Mumbai Metro was not accepting Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes. Directions have been issued to MMOPL. It has assured to start accepting the notes in a few minutes.”
Soon after Fadnavis’ tweet, an MMOPL spokesperson said, “Following clarification by the Ministry of Finance through a tweet, MMOPL will accept currency notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 denominations until November 11.”