‘Will set toll booths on fire’: MNS chief Raj Thackeray's warning to Shinde-Fadnavis govt
Toll rate hikes at Mumbai's entry points (Dahisar, Airoli, Vashi, Mulund West, Eastern Express Highway) began on October 1.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Monday issued a warning to the Eknath Shinde government, saying that the MNS workers “will set toll booths on fire” in the state if they are obstructed from ensuring exemptions for small vehicles from toll charges.
Thackeray's warning was prompted by a statement made by deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday, declaring that “small vehicles are exempted from paying tolls.”
Hitting out at the current and previous governments, Thackeray asserted that none of them had been able to fulfill their promises of making Maharashtra toll-free. He alleged that toll booths served as a source of income for many politicians. Thackeray said, “They get some share from the money collected at toll booths every day, every week and every month. Hence, toll booths will never be closed down, and you will also never get good roads.”
He also raised concerns about the handling of funds collected at toll booths and questioned why the same companies repeatedly secured contracts for toll collection.
In response to these allegations, Fadnavis issued a statement on Monday, noting that 12 toll booths in the state had been closed according to an order published on May 31, 2015.
The toll rate increases at five entry points into Mumbai, including Dahisar (Western Express Highway), Airoli, Vashi (Sion-Panvel Highway), Mulund West (LBS Marg), and Eastern Express Highway, went into effect on October 1.
Activists from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have been protesting since September 30 against the toll charge hikes. Activists, led by Avinash Jadhav, the chief of MNS's Thane and Palghar units, carried party flags and banners while voicing their opposition to the toll increases.
Raj Thackeray to meet CM Shinde
Thackeray on Sunday said he would meet chief minister Eknath Shinde to discuss the toll hike issue that his party workers have been protesting against.
"I have sought an appointment with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in the next couple of days. Will see what comes out of that meeting. Otherwise, keeping the deputy chief minister's (Devendra Fadnavis) statement in mind, MNS workers will gather at every toll booth and ensure that four, three and two-wheelers are not charged tolls. If we are stopped, we will set it ablaze,” Thackeray said.
Avinash Jadhav, an MNS party leader, has been on a hunger strike for the past four days to protest the toll hike that took effect on October 1. Speaking to reporters, Jadhav mentioned that while they conducted a peaceful protest on Saturday, their next demonstration will be stronger.
MNS chief Thackeray pointed out that the previous Shiv Sena-BJP alliance had made a promise in their election manifesto to make Maharashtra toll-free, but this promise went unfulfilled. Additionally, Thackeray alleged that Shinde had previously filed a petition in court concerning tolls and later withdrew it, raising questions about who instructed him to do so.
(With inputs from agencies)