FASTag: In Bengal, vehicle owners in a wait-and-watch mode
At the Jala Dhulagori toll plaza on National Highway-16, which connects West Bengal to Tamil Nadu, 16 lanes cater to anywhere between 38,000 to 40,000 vehicles a day, making it one of the busiest toll plazas in the state. Yet, officials of the company that manages the plaza located 25 km from Kolkata, are concerned about the chaos that December 15 is likely to unleash.
“Out of the total number of vehicles that pass through this toll plaza around 9,000-9,500 are equipped with FASTags at present. At least four banks have set up point-of-sale (POS) counters near the toll plaza and almost every day 300-400 customers are buying FASTags,” said an official of Ashoka Dhankuni Kharagpur Tollway Limited which manages the toll plaza at Jala Dhulagori.
Across the state, 19 plazas will be FASTag-enabled starting Sunday.
At Jala Dhulagori, two lanes have been designated for cash payments — according to the National Highways Authorities of India (NHAI), all vehicles that do not have FASTag will need to pay twice the toll.
However, some commercial vehicle drivers of trucks, buses and cabs said that they were yet to get their FASTags.
“Didn’t you see what happened during demonetisation? The deadline [to return old currency] was extended multiple times. This time too, it was extended [from the earlier deadline of December 1] and is likely extended again. If it works smoothly, I will get the tag. But till them I would pay by cash,” said Rupesh Kumar Yadav, the driver of a sand-loaded truck heading towards Kolkata.
“If it is useful we will get it,” said Rameshwar Ray, a matador driver from Bihar, who was stuck in a long queue at the toll plaza.
Over the past two months, hoardings and posters explaining the ease and utility of FASTag came up on either side of the highway. Last week, two days before the second deadline, people were lined up in front of Point of Sale counters to buy their FASTags.
“I approached a private bank counter but was told to come back after three to four days as there was too much rush,” said Manoj Chori, a matador driver.
One of the common problems that people with FASTags are facing is the placement of the tag on the windshield.
“There is a specific location on the windscreen where the tag has to be pasted. If it is not pasted on the correct position the reader won’t be able to read the card. For such cases we have also kept for hand held devices,” said an official at the plaza, who did not want to be named. “I have FASTag installed in my car. But I didn’t recharge it. I usually pay by cash. If it is convenient I will recharge it. Let’s see what happens,” said Jahir, an app-based cab driver who purchased his car a year ago.