Mumbai: Cricketing legend and Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar has written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, drawing his attention to the "physical and mental toll on citizens" over toll tax.
"I am deeply concerned about the present state of affairs concerning the operations of toll gates around the city of Mumbai," Sachin said in a two-paged letter on letterhead of the Rajya Sabha, of which he is a nominated member. The letter was sent to Fadnavis on February 20 and was made public on Friday.
"I would sincerely request you to kindly reconsider the model of operations to reduce the physical and mental toll on citizens who travel in and out of Mumbai," the letter said.
He urged the Chief Minister to ensure that motorists have an easier time navigating the country`s commercial capital and reduce the anguish being faced by citizens.
Maharashtra PWD Minister Chandrakant Patil and Transport Minister Diwakar Raote have largely welcomed Tendulkar`s initiative on the prickly issue of toll tax.
However, Raote of the Shiv Sena told a private TV channel that by raising this issue, at least "Sachin finally remembers Mumbai and Maharashtra".
"Is he ignorant about the issues plaguing farmers," he retorted at the master-blaster`s unexpected sympathy for the people of Mumbai and others parts of the state reeling under the burden of toll tax since nearly two decades.
"With the growth of the city, there is a lot of travel that happens from satellite towns especially from Vashi and Thane. In this context, there is a need to re-look at the number of toll gates rather than keep adding to the list. These tolls (gates) have become major road blocks resulting in traffic snarls, burning fuel and adding to pollution levels," Tendulkar wrote.
Moreover, he rued how the hike in the toll tax has added to the woes of people as the time taken to complete the transaction for each vehicle has increased on account of issues of small change (Rs 5).
Castigating toll operators, Tendulkar said they need to invest in technology which can help alleviate the limitations of collecting toll, including using RFID enabled cards within India and other similar solutions used worldwide.
"One must bear in mind that Mumbai as a city as always lead the way in terms of adoption of technology and modernisation, but sadly we seem to be lagging behind on the convergence of toll collection and technology," he pointed out.
Tendulkar also delivered his piece of mind on the conditions of roads and cited the examples of the toll posts connecting Vashi and Airoli in Navi Mumbai.
He urged Fadnavis to ensure a 24x7 dedicated and open lane for ambulances which routinely get stuck in traffic jams at toll tax lanes.
"I have seen on multiple occasions, where ambulances are unable to cross a toll gate as they are stuck in the traffic snarl, compromising the person in need of critical care. Movement of ambulances have been an issue in the city and we should make a start by ensuring smooth passage at the toll gates," Tendulkar pleaded.