Highways play a significant role in networking each village, town and city with each other. Haryana has an extensive road network, which includes 1,461 km of national highways and 2,494 km of state highways. About 10 of the highways in the state are taxed by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), who need the money to maintain the metalled highways and finance similar future projects. These taxes are, however, extremely high and is a huge burden on daily commuters. So, are these toll taxes feasible?
Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway is one of the highways in Haryana that caters to a large number of people, many of whom commute daily due to their work. Several people also stay close to the highways, and many a time they need to travel more than once for their daily needs. According to a news report, the tolled highways, charging as per the 2008 NHAI tax policy, follow an average rate of Rs. 2.28 per km. This is very high as compared to those charging as per 2010 NHAI tax policy, which is about Rs. 1.17 per km. Paying high toll taxes create a heavy burden on such individuals. In addition to this, high toll charges have resulted in the increase of prices of people’s daily essentials, like milk, vegetables, etc.
There is, therefore, an immediate requirement for reducing the high costs of tolled highways across the state. These issues can only be dealt with if the state government and the NHAI together take steps to address them. Then again, increasing the VAT on petrol to compensate the cost reduction is a rather wrong solution. The government needs to find a middle ground between profit making from toll revenues and cutting costs, in order to reduce the burden of daily commuters and not increase the costs of the already high-priced petrol. A way to fix toll charges for vehicles is by considering the ‘make’ of the automobiles. Cheaper automobiles like Maruti Alto can be charged lesser than the Mercedes and Audis.
Along with reducing the rates, the Haryana authorities also need to consider the issues faced by those travelling through tolled highways daily. The plazas established for toll tax collection in the highways are the causes for heavy traffic during peak hours. One of the ways to combat this issue is to provide monthly or yearly cards at a discounted rate. These NHAI issued cards need to be automated, so that they can be swiped through. Issuance of these cards could result in reduction of time spent in paying in cash every day. Collecting money early can help NHAI maintain their required revenue to maintain highways, and will also reduce the burden for the commuters and people who stay nearby.
Toll taxes are important for the NHAI to maintain highways and finance future highway construction projects for the benefit of the people of Haryana. However, these need to be reduced and an efficient system need to be maintained, so that vehicle movements through the toll plazas are smooth and does not create traffic chaos.