Belmannu: The Karkala-Padubidri state Highway wore a deserted look on Thursday following outstanding response to the bandh call given by the ‘Toll Virodhi Samithi’ (Anti-toll Committee).
Speaking during a massive protest against toll-booth in Karkala-Padubidri state highway, held by the ‘Toll Virodhi Samithi’ (Anti-toll Committee), at Belmannu bus stand, on Thursday, Sri Esha Vittala Swamiji of Kemaru Sandeepini Sadhana Ashram, said “The ruling government is promoting itself through different schemes that deceive people, and now has given the unfortunate ‘Toll Bhagya’. The District Administration responds to a petition submitted by a common man, but does not respond to the petition signed against ‘Toll-Booths’ by thousands of people! This is disheartening and also an irony that we have been forced to live.”
Convener of ‘Belmannu Toll-Gate Virodhi Samithi, Nandalike Suhas Hegde, said “The peaceful protest which was undertaken opposing the construction of toll-gate in Karkala-Padubidri state highway 1 has not effected the government, and it is covertly preparing to collect money in tollbooths.”
“Violent protests will flare-up in days to come against the government and the district administration for ignoring people’s request to close the toll booth,” Hegde said.
“If the tax paid during the four year period since the completion of road construction is repayed by the government, we will pay the toll. People of the neighbouring twenty seven villages have united, and even if we have to shed blood to stop the toll booths from being constructed, we are ready. The government and the district administration is trying to divide and rule, but the people though innocent are not fools, we are all educated,” he added.
Journalist Shrikantha Shetty, committee member Sarvajna Tantri, Shashidar Shetty, Taxi-men association member Ramesh, Zilla Panchayath member Reshma Udaya Shetty also spoke during the protest.
More than two thousand protesters gathered and went on a parade from Belmannu bus stand to a petrol pump near Belman Church, returned and again went on a parade till Nandalike Board School, and came back to the bus stand.
Appeal to the Additional Deputy Commissioner
Suhas Hegde, Sri Esha Vittala Swamiji and Reshma Udaya Shetty submitted the petition opposing toll-gate to the Additional Deputy Commissioner. In response to the appeal, the ADC said that the district administration does not have the authority to deal with toll-gate issue, but the matter will be taken under serious consideration and the petition will be sent to the government.
Arrest and release of protesters
After submitting the petition to the Additional DC, the protesters started shouting slogans sitting in middle of the streets. Hundreds of protesters including Suhas Hegde were arrested and later released.
‘Bandh’ was a success with the support from thousands of protesters. No vehicles were sighted in Karkala-Padubidri highway till the evening. All the shops were closed in Belmannu, and all owners of auto rikshaw and taxis partcipated in the protest. All educational institutions including NITTE were also shut down.
Suhas Hegde had errected a toll-tree which drew attention. This tree portrayed a situation where all kinds of vehicles resorted to committing suicide due to pressure of tolls.