The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) resumed toll collection on national highways from April 20, Monday, as the central government announced partial relaxation of the national lockdown. It comes as India is slowly planning to revive stalled economic activities due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on April 15 released new lockdown guidelines listing select economic activities that will be allowed to function after April 20 only after the review of the Covid-19 situation in India. However, the revised guidelines will not apply in containment zones, as demarcated by respective states.
The exemptions given by the Ministry are:
People working in MGNREGA, especially those involved in irrigation and water conservation activities, can resume their duties while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.
Farming industry - states/UTs have to ensure decentralisation in the procurement and marketing of the harvest.
Animal husbandry, fishing industry and horticulture industry will be open. The supply chain of the animal husbandry will now be open.
Rural industries, especially food processing industries will now be open.
Health services, essential goods supply chain will continue as earlier.
Meanwhile, the All India Motor Transport Congress has asked the Centre to reconsider the decision to start toll collection. "The government must reconsider its decision before putting any financial burden on this sector," AIMTC President Kultaran Singh Atwal said.
NHAI had suspended toll collection on all national highways after the 21-day nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24 to ease emergency services in view of the coronavirus outbreak. Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the NHAI may be directed to compensate for the losses incurred by the toll plaza during the lockdown period.
Rating agency ICRA had earlier said that amid the nationwide lockdown on account of coronavirus outbreak, the toll collection on national highways will see a dip of about 3 per cent in the current fiscal, and that NHAI is likely to incur revenue losses of Rs 18.2 billion due to suspension of toll collection on national highways during the 40-day lockdown.