Pune: Now, soldiers will be given a salute or standing ovation at the toll plazas while on the move. All personnel of the armed forces are exempted from paying toll tax while on official duty.
After getting complaints of rude behaviour meted out to soldiers by toll plazas staffs, last week, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) issued a policy circular stating, “The armed forces personnel deserve the highest regard and should be given due respect at the toll plaza including salute or standing ovations as deemed fit.”
The circular dated December 6 is issued by NHAI General Manager (IT & HO) Shailesh Yadav. “A lot of complaints are received from armed forces personnel that toll plazas agencies are not honouring the directions of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and are not allowing exemption from toll fee while discharging their official duty. In-spite of personnel/ officers showing their identity card and explaining that they are on official duty, toll plaza employees often use harsh languages and ask for further proof,” the circular noted.
Taking note of the complaints, the NHAI also ordered that only a competent authority or officer of the toll operating agency, and not the lower staff, can check the identity cards in case of any doubt.
“Considering the unparalleled service of armed forces towards the safety and security of the country, such type of rude behaviour is not acceptable. The toll plaza agencies are directed to train the toll operating staff accordingly to pay due respect to armed forces/ salute their selfless dedication to country. The verification of I-card of armed forces personnel should be done by some senior/competent authority and not left to the untrained lowest staff,” the diktat ordered.
The Indian Tolls (Army & Air Force) Act, 1901, provides for exemption from toll charges to all members of the armed forces. However, the controversy occurred after a letter issued by the MoRTH said only those ‘on duty’ would be entitled to the exemption. This resulted in toll operators insisting defence personnel pay toll charges and this often led to misbehaviour by toll attendants. As the tussle between defence forces and the transport ministry escalated, the matter was dragged to court and later the Supreme Court (SC) also ruled in favour of the armed forces, upholding the exemption.
Now, the NHAI, while extending relief to the armed forces, has asked the toll operators that in case of any doubt, the benefit must be given to the defence persons.
“It is needless to emphasise that considering the extreme sacrifice of armed forces to the nation, in case of doubt with respect to nature of their official duty, a benefit of the doubt
should be given appropriately to armed force personnel,” it said.