“Highway to Hell” Literally

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So just yesterday, I switched on a Marathi News Channel to see Mr. Raj Thackeray address a crowd in Kolhapur. Though his politics may not be acceptable to many, some of the points he raises in his speeches do strike a cord with not only the Marathi Manus but the whole of India.

While he spoke about tolls being high almost all over Maharashtra and the roads not being up to mark, the question that came to mind was, “Why are we made to pay toll tax when we already have to pay road tax for owning a vehicle? Doesn’t the money used to build and maintain roads come from citizen taxes?” So technically, road tax is the tax that has to be paid on a motor vehicle before using it on a public road. This is imposed by both the central Govt. (customs, excise and central sales tax) and the state Govt. (vehicle tax, passenger and goods tax, VAT and octroi). So aren’t we entitled to good quality roads without having to pay extra taxes (Tolls) for we already shell out so much just to own a vehicle?

However, its not the levying of Tolls that’s the problem, its the illegal tolls that are collected and the fact that the state of the roads is pathetic even after paying so much to our Government. As Raj mentioned, the number of deaths due to road accidents in Maharashtra exceeds 12,000. Maharashtra accounts for 9.3% of country’s population but has reported almost one sixth (18.3%) of accidental deaths due to unnatural causes. And last year, this number includes two of our finest actors; Anand Abhyankar and Akshay Pendse. More number of people die in road accidents than in terrorist attacks or other illicit activities all put together. Worse, you’re more likely of dying in a road accident than you are due to smoking, drinking, unhealthy lifestyle,etc.  And the situation only worsens with the pathetic condition of public transport as the congested roads have to support a rising number of private vehicles (Pune has the highest number of vehicle to people ratio in the world).

NH_73So lets take a cue from some of the best highways in the world; the Autobahns. Disciplined drivers, amazing roads and most importantly the strictest of rules. So disciplined and strict are the rules that you are fined even if your car runs out of fuel and you stop on the autobahns. Running out of fuel is considered an avoidable occurrence for there is a fuel station every 50-55km. The fine for something as small as stopping on a highway is a prison sentence of 5 years. In case of emergencies there are special emergency lanes where one is expected to make a halt and contact the police immediately. And do you know what’s even more surprising about all this? While we are charged around Rs. 100 or more for such pathetic and unmanaged roads as Tolls, the autobahns charge only 0.15 Euros. That’s Rs. 11 approx for one of the best roadways in the world.

So what do we really want? Better Roads? Cheaper or no Tolls? Stricter laws? Disciplined Driving? Speed Regulations?  The answer unfortunately is all of these and much more..

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