While the rest of Mumbai fretted and frowned over their morning commute to the office in the wake of disruptions announced by the MNS, the man in the eye of the storm had a smooth drive from his residence to his Powai office nearby.
Jayant Mhaiskar, chairman & MD of Mumbai Entry Point Limited (MEPL), the company that rakes in over Rs250 crore annually as toll from all the five entry points to Mumbai, was unruffled by the MNS's drama. "I am a common man; I have nothing to do with politics or politicians," said Mhaiskar, his cool demeanour betraying the fact that the entire drama may well have been staged and posed no threat to his operations.
"The toll plazas are the government's property and it did a good job of providing adequate security and taking firm, if not strong, action to deter any wrongdoing," he said, adding that he was worried for the 'common man' stuck in the traffic snarls caused by the MNS fiasco.
Rubbishing MNS's campaign to discontinue toll, Mhaiskar said collecting toll is a national policy and Maharashtra — and Mumbai — are just part of the Centre's scheme. "There are over 290 toll plazas across the country, of which just 23 are in Maharashtra. Any decision to abolish toll will have to come from the Centre," said Mhaiskar.
He added that if the government had money to fund the road projects, it could pay the contractors out of its own pocket and spare users from toll. "But obviously, the government does not have money to fund the projects. So the choice is to either privatise through the toll route or delay the development of roads."
He also said toll is a state levy and not some private tax, which the political outfits should be protesting about.
As a succour to motorists, Mhaiskar said the toll tariff is calculated as a percentage of savings that the motorists get on operating costs of the vehicle due to better roads. "So basically the toll is about 40% of the total savings of the user," he explained.