For the last seven years, Nitin Gadkari continues to be among the most able ministers of the Modi government. Under his leadership, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has built 13,394 Km of highways in FY 21. Gadkari has promised that road infrastructure in India will be comparable to the United States and Europe by 2024. He seems to have taken another step in that direction.
No Toll Plazas
India is soon going to get rid of toll plazas. We are not the one’s saying this. But, Nitin Gadkari himself informed about his plan to remove toll plazas. Reportedly, the government is moving ahead with a plan to remove toll plazas across India’s national highways.
There will be automatic number plate reader cameras. These cameras will read vehicle number plates and automatically deduct tolls from the linked bank accounts of vehicle owners. Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari informed that “a pilot of this scheme is underway and legal amendments to facilitate this transition are also being moved.”
While interacting with The Indian Express, Gadkari told, “In 2019, we made a rule that cars will come with company-fitted number plates. So, the vehicles that have come in the last four years have different number plates. Now, the plan is to remove toll plazas and put cameras, which will read these number plates and toll will be deducted from the account directly. We are also doing a pilot of this scheme. However, there is one problem — there is no provision under the law to penalise the vehicle owner who skips the toll plaza and does not pay. We need to bring that provision under the law. We may bring in a provision for cars which do not have these number plates to get them installed within a certain period of time. We will need to bring in a Bill for this.”
FASTags and its advantages
As of now, about 97 per cent of the total toll collection of nearly Rs 40,000 crore is paid through FASTags. The remaining 3 percentage are forced to pay higher than normal toll rates as they are not using FASTags.
FASTags has made life easy for people as it takes only about 47 seconds per vehicle to cross a toll plaza. There has also been witnessed throughput enhancement. While more than 260 vehicles can be processed per hour via the electronic toll collection lane, it was only possible for 112 vehicles per hour to process via the manual toll collection lane.
With the emergence of FASTags, there has been witnessed ease in traffic at toll plazas across the country. Some of the issues with the FASTags, which were effective from February 16, 2021, include, “users with low balance entering the fee plaza lane, which eventually results in longer processing time; internet connectivity issues at remote fee plazas due to which the status of low-balance FASTag is not updated to active FASTag in time by the plaza servers; wear-and-tear of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) reader and tag; and improper affixation of FASTags by users.”
How is it beneficial?
While the congestion at toll plazas has already reduced at a decent pace, with the use of the number plate reader cameras, the congestion at toll plazas is likely to reduce further. Gadkari asserted that “vehicles would not be stopped thus saving both on time taken on trips and cutting pollution.”
Moreover,at present, people are forced to pay full charges even at toll plazas that are located 60 kilometres (km) away from each other.
After the implementation of the programme, “Now if you use the highway for only 30 km, then with the help of new technology you will be charged only half the price.”
Digitalisation will not only help in the reduction of pollution and help people save time, but it will also end corruption. As a few hooligans, in the name of toll, collect money from travellers and hence increase the corruption.
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