Gujarat exempted passenger vehicles and state buses from paying the levy on 12 state highways.
Just a day after Gujarat's new Chief Minister Vijay Rupani expressed "difficulty" over exempting toll tax for small passenger vehicles, the state government today reversed its stance and exempted small passenger vehicles and state-run buses from paying the levy on 12 state highways from August 15.
This decision was earlier announced by former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel just before she resigned. Mr Rupani's statement on the difficulty of the plan's implementation drew a lot of criticism from the opposition.
"We are committed to implement all the promises made by Patel (before she resigned). However, it will be a little difficult for us to remove toll tax from August 15. But, we are definitely working on this," Mr Rupani had told reporters.
This had earned the state BJP a reaction from Aam Aadmi Party's Ashutosh who said that the BJP was favouring contractors and not common men.
However, fearing a further backlash in the poll-bound state of Gujarat, the state government quickly reversed its stance and announced the implementation of Anandiben Patel's decision.
"We have decided to abolish passenger toll tax from 12 state highways. This decision was taken in a meeting of Chief Minister and Finance ministry officials, in which state Chief Secretary was also present," Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said.
The passengers will however have to continue paying toll taxes on eight national highways that pass through Gujarat and are maintained by the central government.
"As per the estimate, 86,000 vehicles pass through these state highways daily, where 27 toll booths are located. The state government will bear the toll tax and it will not be collected from people," said Nitin Patel, adding that the state exchequer will incur an additional expense of Rs 150 crore following this exemption. The Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) will save Rs 20 crore per year after the tax exemption and "this benefit will be passed on to consumers" according to Mr Patel.
The 12 state highways that will become toll-free from Independence Day this year are Ahmedabad-Mehsana, Vadodara-Halol, Ahmedabad-Viramgam-Maliya, Halol-Godhra-Shamlaji, Rajkot-Jamnagar-Vadinar, Himmatnagar Bypass, Kim-Mandvi Highway, Bhuj-Nakhatarana Highway, Kapadwanj-Modasa, Deesa-Gundri, Vadodara-Chhayapur and Bagodara-Bamnasore.