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SHILLONG:

The Meghalaya Commercial Truck Owners and Drivers Association has requested the government to stop the illegal collection of taxes at toll gates along West Khasi Hills until Ri Bhoi district.

Despite the notification released this year, the association’s president, Mosklander Marngar, told the press on Tuesday how truck drivers and owners are being persecuted as a result of illegal tax collection at toll gates erected from West Khasi Hills to Ri Bhoi.

The association referred to notifications from the Joint Secretary of District Council Affairs (DCA) on February 25, 2022, written to the deputy commissioners of all districts directing them to take necessary action for closure of all toll gates erected by autonomous district councils (ADCs) or authorities acting them, including traditional bodies on National Highways, state highways and major district roads.

The Joint Secretary of District Council Affairs (DCA) on December 9, 2021 had written to the DCs of East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills, Eastern West Khasi Hills, and Nongpoh stated that the collection of taxes by the ADCs is made as per the provision of Para 8 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

“However, this power to collect toll/taxes by the ADCs and the traditional institutions under them is confined to their area of jurisdiction and does not extend to national highways and the state roads, over which the Public Works Department has jurisdiction,” the notification stated.

Marngar said, “At these toll gates, we would shell out Rs 19000 – Rs 20000 per trip and it has affected the truck drivers and the owners. There are times that they would intimidate us, it would even be violent”.

He said that the drivers and owners are apprised of the notification but these two weeks there are some toll gates that have stopped the collection but those of the ADCs are still adamant and are demanding money with threats.

“There are nights that it gets violent. This has become intolerable for us. The DCs and the authorities have issued orders to the personnel who are manning the toll gates but there is no implementation on the ground to stop illegal collection of the toll
gates,” he said.

He added that some of the personnel at the toll gates alleged that the gates belong to an MLA which Marngar said are only an allegation.

He however, alleged that police personnel would be stationed the very next day at the toll gate if there is refusal to pay the taxes the night before. He said, “How can we trust the government in this case?”

Asked, he said that the toll gate collection would start from Shallang in West Khasi Hills till Ri Bhoi district and there are over 32 toll gates along this stretch.

The area that we are harassed the most is in Mawshynrut Civil Sub-division and Nongstoin area.