Anantnag: While the central government has extended the deadline, from January 1 to February 15, for mandatory FastTag on vehicles, the toll plaza at Kai-Chachkoot on NH-44 has already withdrawn all ‘benefits’ for commuters travelling across the toll post.
“The toll post here works as per their free will. They have abolished a two-way pass worth Rupees 135. Now the commuter has to pay Rupees 90 for each entry at the toll post, making the cost of the two-way toll 180 rupees,” said Imtiyaz Ahmad, a daily commuter.
The management at the plaza, run by a non-local firm, has also abolished the monthly pass meant for commuters living within a radius of 20 kilometers around the toll plaza.
“It was a free monthly pass to begin with, promised by the administration. Then the toll plaza started charging 275 rupees for the same and the administration did nothing. Now they have altogether stopped issuing these passes,” Bashir Ahmad Dar, another commuter, told Kashmir Reader.
Kashmir Reader tried talking to the employees at the toll post who very reluctantly answered that the benefits will be rolled out in FastTag, as and when it is installed.
When told that the deadline has been extended till February 15, the employees just flashed an old, crumpled paper with January 15 as the deadline for FastTag written on it.
“They do not even listen to you and they hardly talk. There is no one we can raise our grievances to. Their office at the plaza remains out of bounds and the employees are at best rude while talking to the commuters,” many commuters that Kashmir Reader talked to said.
Besides, they say, it was time consuming amidst a journey to enter into an argument with the employees of the toll post.
Kashmir Reader talked to Regional Officer of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for Kashmir, Hemraj Bhagat, who also acknowledged that the deadline had been extended to February 15.
“Every benefit for commuters will now be given through the FastTag,” Bhagat said. He did not however comment on why the toll plaza management has withdrawn the ‘benefits’ way ahead of the deadline.
FastTag is a rechargeable tag on a vehicle linked to a pre-paid account for direct payment of tolls, taking cash transactions at toll plazas out of the equation.
This new high-tech initiative, meant to save precious time at the toll plazas, is mostly internet based. It can be ordered online, kept a tab of through a mobile application, and the prepaid payments can be made online as well.
The government of India has in recent years set many deadlines for making this Tag mandatory for all vehicles. The deadline was recently rescheduled from January 1 to February 15, giving some more time to the commuters to get these tags fixed on their vehicles.