Amid growing public outcry and protests, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is starting a new toll plaza at Lakhanpur—the gateway of Jammu and Kashmir—in Kathua district from July 21, the day this year’s curtailed Amarnath Yatra is proposed to begin.
The NHAI has signed a Letter of Agreement (LoA) for operationalisation of toll plaza at Lakhanpur with the Haryana-based Ranchordas Company.
With this, all Kashmir-bound tourists and Vaishno Devi pilgrims entering or leaving J&K will now have to shell out extra money on toll at three different toll posts—Thandi Khui toll plaza, Ban Toll Plaza and Lakhanpur toll plaza.
“This toll plaza was supposed to be made operational in 2012 when the 4-laning of Jammu-Pathankot highway was completed. The notification for it was announced in 2016 and since then we had repeatedly been approaching the local government for giving its nod to start toll plaza,” Hemraj, general manager, regional office NHAI, Jammu told The Tribune.
The general manager said they would start collecting toll from all incoming and outgoing vehicles from July 21.
As per the toll fee fixed by the NHAI at Lakhanpur toll plaza, the Light Motor Vehicles will be charged Rs 85 for a one-way journey and Rs. 130 for a return journey within 24 hours. Similarly, Mini Bus will be charged Rs. 140 for single and Rs 205 for double entry while bus/truck (2 axle) will be charged with Rs 290 for single and Rs 435 for double entry within 24 hours.
From January 1 this year, the UT administration had abolished all inter-state minor toll posts, including the one in Lakhanpur, to fully implement the idea of “one nation, one tax post-GST regime after scrapping J&K’s special status and its division into two UTs”.
Sources said the establishment of toll plazas was an ‘in-built’ provision of highway widening project. “After getting nod from UT administration, the NHAI has created infrastructure and made all arrangements to formally operationalize toll collection from July 21,” sources said.
Pertinently, the ruling BJP at the Centre has been facing sharp criticism for turning Jammu into a “city of toll plazas” as three toll posts including one at Chenani-Nashri tunnel in Udhampur district. The government has also proposed two more toll posts, one each at new Ring road and Jammu-Akhnoor highway. J&K unit of BJP had written a letter to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari with request to scrap “entire plan of establishing Toll Plaza” but it yielded no results so far.