Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Farmers, traders hit by toll collection: writer

Hunger strike by samithy completes 34 days

It is not just motorists who feel the pinch by the toll imposed for using Mannuthy-Angamaly stretch of the National Highway, but farmers and small traders too have to cough up money each time they use the road, writer and social activist Sara Joseph has said.
She was addressing a meeting of socio-cultural leaders at Paliyekkara on Sunday to express solidarity with the ongoing strike by the Toll Viruddha Samyuktha Samara Samithy demanding withdrawal of the decision to collect toll from motorists for using the national highway.
The hunger strike of the Samara Samithy completed 34 days on Sunday. “Many farmers and small traders have to use the highway on a daily basis to sell their produce. The small tile manufacturing units have to transport their raw materials many times a day. The heavy toll charge is a financial burden on these communities and will reduce their already meagre profit margin,” she noted.
The political parties have pathetically failed to fulfil their duty to the public, she alleged. With an eye on the share of profit from the BOT (Built –operate-transfer) companies, they were keeping mum on the issue, she said. She urged the government to take over the National Highway from the control of the private company.
Samara Samithy leader P.J. Moncy pointed out that unlike other less-populated states in the country, majority of people in Kerala had to use National Highways on a daily basis.
He alleged that even when the hunger strike completed 34 days, not a single representative from the government called on the agitating activists.
“This is a strike for people's right for using public roads. We shall not permit private monopolies to take over the National Highways,” he said.
He alleged that the government was trying to suppress their peaceful protest by police force.
“The agitation against toll collection is gaining more support from public even when the mainstream political parties like CPI(M) and the Congress keep a distance from it. So far more than 40 various organisations and political parities have expressed solidarity with us,” Mr. Moncy said.
Criticising the demand of the Congress and CP(M) to reduce the toll charges, social activist C. R. Neelakanthan said it was an attempt to torpedo the ongoing agitation. “Our demand is to withdraw the toll collection, not just to reduce the toll charges. By demanding reduction in toll charges, those parties are agreeing to the looting of the public by the BOT companies.” he said.
According to the government estimate, construction cost of Mannuthy-Angamaly stretch of National Highway is Rs. 312 crore.
But the government had given permission for the private company to collect Rs. 12,500 crore as toll charges for a period of 17.5 years, he alleged. Expressing their support to the agitation, social activists and cultural leaders including Sarada, wife of M. N. Vijayan, P. Surendran, K. Venu, N. Prabhakaran, P.N. Gopikrishnan, V. M. Girija, Kamal, Priyanandanan Rafeeq Ahmed, Engandiyur Chandrasekhar, C. R. Omanakkuttan, Peethambaran, and many others attended the meeting.

Thrissur, March 19, 2012 the hindu

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