Living on the Other Side
The residential society of Hari Om Nagar, located on the fringes of Mumbai in the suburb of Mulund, has grown since its first building came up in 1994. It now has over 20 towers, with 5,000 families living in them. It is just minutes away from the Eastern Express Highway. But the residents are facing a peculiar problem. Every time they drive into the city, they have to cross the Mulund toll booth and pay toll charges of Rs 30.
The Mulund toll booth, which acts as the gateway between Mumbai and Thane, is located just around 100 metres away from Hari Om Nagar on the Thane side. As a result, despite being city residents, occupants of Hari Om Nagar have to pay the toll fee of Rs 30 to enter the city.
The residents claim they have complained to various authorities, including the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, so that they are granted an exemption from paying toll fees. But nothing has come of it.
Manish Todi, a businessman who deals in ladies’ accessories and has to drive to his office in South Mumbai daily, says, “We live in Mulund, not Thane. All records in government and civic documents say so. We fall in BMC’s T Ward. Our postal address says Mumbai. And we also pay property tax according to Mumbai rates. So why should we be made to pay a toll fee?” According to Todi, whenever elections are around the corner, local leaders promise support. But nothing happens afterwards.
A few years ago, a rebate of 25 per cent on monthly passes was allowed to Hari Om Nagar residents. According to the residents, however, either they should be completely exempt from paying a toll fee or the toll point has to be relocated to another division between the two cities. Usha Dabani, a Hari Om Nagar resident and member of the BJP, claims they have been making these demands for over 10 years. Upset that their pleas had found no takers, two months ago, Dabani, along with a few other residents, drove around 25 vehicles to the toll point and abandoned them at various lanes for around 50 minutes. “There was huge traffic disruption. And the toll authorities begged us to move our vehicles. We agreed to do so because we did not want to inconvenience others. The next time, we may not be so considerate,” warns Dabani.