Corruption at toll-points disturbs the entire economy
The President of Bombay Goods Transport Association (BGTA) recently said, “The scam of money collection at toll plazas is bigger than the 2G scam. The government has sold off major national assets, our National Highways, to contractors.” Most of other transport agencies in the country are biting the bullet as ever-increasing burden of toll plaza corruption are palming off the truckers with deceit and coercion. The rage is all across the nation, as the same story keeps on repeating itself, and the trap is affecting strangling and commuters alike!
An inevitable happened when various pressure groups (like Gurgaon Citizen Council, Shaheed Smarak Committee, Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, Zila Sainik Board and RWAs) amassed angry commuters by storming the toll plazas at Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway. They were complaining of overcharging by organisation which is operating the expressway. Most surprisingly, the Transport Corporation of India, instead of taking a rap on the organisations operating the toll plazas decided to remain silent! This one incident talks volumes about the nexus between the two! The inherited problem is compounded by poor facilities at the toll points like lack of sensors, electronic display boards and computer generated receipts. Such automation would ensure transparency which would have eventually reduced such corrupt activities, at large.
A recent parliamentary panel's report acknowledges the apparent crisis owing to nexus between middlemen, unscrupulous contractors and bribe recipient officials, as main factors for such time and cost overrun. A joint study with Transport Corporation of India (TCI) reveals that the truckers are not only at loss from toll taxes, but also from inordinate time consuming government forms, and various other taxes collected by traffic police. This puts the truck drivers and owners under severe pressure and undermines their GDP contribution which is pegged at 4.5 per cent. These procedural complexities are perfect weapons in the hands of the authorities to extract bribes from the truckers who are left with no choice, but to satisfy them in order to keep their engines running. The spreadsheet of Delhi- Chennai route shows these ordeals cost the truck drivers 10 per cent of transit time and bribes cost 19 per cent of the total cost! Further impediments occur to the truckers, who are always rushing to meet the deadline, in the way of check posts and inspections that further push up the overall and opportunity cost (in terms of wastage of time)! These necessary check posts at small intervals are not for checking smuggling but are more for extracting extra bucks from the truckers. Truckers also pay bribes in order to dodge the maximum weight-limit, over-speeding fines and entry into no-entry zones.
Obviously this duality of corruption in road transport and road construction escalates the problem manifold. Unnecessary check-points on these roads increase the incidence of bribery. Obviously, there are no formulae to solve this problem, but of course, a more automated system and electronic transfer of funds would address the problem to a large extent. Such malaise not only delays the transfer of cargos, thus affecting the demand-supply and pricing equation, but also increases the cost of goods. All in all, every single extra penny paid at any point in this transport/transfer chain is finally passed on to the end consumer.