FASTag rollout: Doubts galore; uncertainty over toll plaza attendants' jobs

Topics FASTags | FASTag

For attendants collecting toll at Navi Mumbai’s Vashi Bridge, queries on FASTags and its impending roll-out on this state-run stretch are now routine. 

Some say they are uncertain about the timeline. What also remains uncertain, for now, is the job security of thousands manning toll plazas in India.

At present, FASTags are being rolled out on National Highways. Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) operates the Vashi Bridge. Even with the present roll-out, concerns on whether there would be job losses have no clear answers.

“None of the employees has been discontinued so far. They are helping guide the system and attend to other teething problems,” said K K Mohanty, managing director, Gammon Infrastructure Projects. 

Launched under the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) programme, FASTags provide for collecting user fees based on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. 

The move is expected to save fuel and time, and ensure a seamless movement of traffic. With manual cash collection reducing, the number of people required, too, may come down. Mohanty estimates this reduction at 10-15 per cent of the work force.

According to the Union road ministry, 570 fee plazas are operational on National Highways. It is not accurately known how many work there. Industry executives have estimated the number of employees at a toll plaza on a four-lane National Highway at 100-125. 

“I do not expect job losses but the type of work will change. Companies may absorb them,” said Kushal Singh, partner at Deloitte India. 

However, a majority of the workers may not be on the payroll or permanent employees. Mohanty said the supervisory staff would be on the company’s rolls, but the rest are outsourced or contract employees. 

“Companies will need to revisit these contracts, depending on new needs,” he said. 

A top executive at a leading road development company does not see job losses as a problem. “I do not expect job losses to be a problem. This is skilled labour with an expertise to classify vehicles and ensure seamless cash collection,” he said. The executive expects the country’s retail industry to easily absorb this workforce.

According to the road ministry, Rs 24,396.19 crore was collected as user fee at the plazas of the National Highways Authority of India in 2018-19.

On December 31, the road ministry said the daily FASTags transaction number had crossed 300,000.

Others, like Mohanty, say workers need to upgrade their skills. 

“There will be a need for software and hardware professionals to address issues of any malfunctioning of the FASTags system. Those who can upskill may get absorbed.”

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