14 August, 2014


Description: NO TOLL - NO TICKET

Regardless of the politics of Raj Thackeray he has raised an important question of monopolizing public amenities and taxing people for what used to be state's obligations. 

In the garb of BOOT, BOLT, BOT public has been looted without limit. For years toll tax has been collected even on roads resurfaced or improved. New roads levy a very hefty toll. Now, travelling on the road has become literally taxing. Toll taxes have made using roads prohibitive, besides obstructing traffic and impeding speedy travel. 

These toll plazas are owned by politicians who are being permitted to violate the original contract under one or the other pretext, to loot people ad infinitum. 

Virtually everything that a welfare state ought to provide for free to the Aam Aadmi is being privatized and taxed, rendering it out of reach of the common man. 

Take the case of KANKARIA lake of Ahmedabad. Earlier you could visit it for free, spend time on its benches or take walk around it, munching seeng-chana, and your home made stuff, some years ago. Now, in the name of Lake development, it has been made  so costly that a poor family simply cannot dream of visiting it. Such will become the fate of the Riverfront very soon. Nothing will be left for the poor for free. So, where is the state? Where is our tax money going? Who is benefiting from this policy? Why?

Let's challenge this policy of privatizing public resources. 

a. Road is a far greater necessity for urban life and impacts many a life. It deserves to be free more than most after health. If this trend is not checked, tomorrow hospitals, government schools and water supply will all be similarly outsourced and charged heftily.

b. In the quest of toll collection even workable and functional roads are converted into "beautiful" roads rendering an obviously free utility into a paid one

c. Often express-ways / flyovers etc built by BUILT lobbyists wreak havoc with life pattern and access of those living there. Expressway for instance divides villages into two unconnected zones [separating animals from their lake, brother from brother, farmers from their farms, children from schools et al]. Flyovers destroy the economy of those they fly over. But the lobbyists manage to bulldoze their way silencing those affected. Inherently these facilities - welcome as they are otherwise - benefit the richer people at the cost of the poorer ones

d. Toll agreements are cunningly crafted so as to provide extensions and loopholes for perpetuating the collection. We can see rampant examples 

e. Now, TICKETS. I have provided some examples. Many more can be cited. Gradually free public gardens and entertainment zones are evaporating in the name of 'big fun' - of course attracting tickets. Sadly, since the middle class can pay for these the voice of the poor is not heard

These arguments can also bear resonance to the issue of land acquisition for industrial purposes and for building economic corridors and special promotion zones. The Gandhians of Gujarat are arguing precisely against these for similar reasons.

I guess both sides can argue depending whose case they are arguing. And both types of arguments might sound as valid.

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