Bijni toll gate reopens amid call for NH31 repair
Assam transport minister Chandan Brahma on Thursday reopened the Bijni toll gate on National Highway 31 in lower Assam’s Chirang district.
The toll gate, under the National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI), remained closed since 2015 because of protests from various organisations, mainly the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS). Most of the KMSS leaders, including its adviser Akhil Gogoi, are behind bars for participating at the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests. A Gurgaon-based private company has been given the contract of toll collection. “The revenue from the toll gate will help maintain the highway,” said Brahma after inaugurating the toll gate.
Altogether Assam has five toll gates. With the opening of the Bijni toll gate, Assam government seems to have hinted at its cooperation to reopen the remaining four. Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari last year sought the Assam government’s help to reopen the toll gates.
Cabinet minister Chandra Mohan Patowary had recently said the toll gates would be reopened. “If toll gates are not opened, maintenance of highways is impossible,” he added.
From now on, light motor vehicles will have to pay Rs 70 for one way to ply through Bijni toll gate and Rs 105 for both ways, light commercial vehicles and minibuses will be charged Rs 115 for one way and Rs 175 for both ways. Trucks and buses will have to pay Rs 240 and Rs 360 for one way and both ways respectively. Some vehicle owners were seen expressing dissatisfaction over the “high” toll.
Expressing his displeasure, secretary of Koch Rajbongshi Mohasabha Biswajit Ray said: “It is not right to open a toll gate when the national highway is not properly maintained. National Highway 31 has potholes and does not have trees on the divider. Besides, if local youths are not employed at the toll gate and the road is not maintained properly, a conflict may arise.”
The NHAI authorities earlier expressed their will to reopen the toll gates from this month.
In July last year it tried to reopen the Raha toll gate in central Assam’s Nagaon district but the decision was kept on hold in view of the publication of the complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, (AJYCP), an organisation which had protested reopening of the Raha toll gate on National Highway 37, on Thursday reiterated its opposition to any move to reopen the Roha toll gate, saying the construction of the highway is still incomplete.
“The construction of NH37 is incomplete. There is no side protection on the highway. There are no trees on the dividers,” AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai said.