Mumbai: After a dramatic day of agitation in Mumbai, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray met Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Thursday morning. The meeting comes after Chavan reached out to Thackeray on Wednesday over the toll collection issue.
Thackeray was detained for three hours on Wednesday when he was on his way to join party cadre in their anti-toll agitation.
MNS workers protesting, however, went on a rampage on Wednesday. Buses were damaged, some shops were also vandalised, while some were forcibly shut. Thackeray appealed for calm and asked MNS workers to not indulge in vandalism.
Chavan had reacted to the protest call given by MNS saying, "Raj Thackeray had sought time. I had given him time for talks. There is no need to indulge in vandalism. He wants to politicise the issue in an election year. Discussions are on on a new toll policy."
The issue of toll tax in the state has caught the eye balls of all the political parties. "We were the first to announce that we will make Maharashtra a toll-free state," claimed Maharashtra BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis.
Ironically, the BJP-Shiv Sena government had introduced road privatisation in the state in a major way.
Maharashtra is one of the first states to introduce the toll regime, but allegations of financial irregularities have been consistent.
A PAC tabled in the state Assembly in 2013 had stated instances where toll operators continued to charge users despite the recovery period having been lapsed. The CAG too has pointed out lack of transparency in major road contracts awarded by the government. Sources even said that the money collected was siphoned off and not used for the maintenance of the roads.
Allegations of political nexus with contractors too have been persistent.
The Chief Minister has indicated that the demand to shut down tolls is impractical and that toll collection is vital in sustaining the road network. The government, however, could consider a regulatory authority for now to douse the political fire.