Udupi (The Hindu): There was mixed response to the Udupi district bandh call given by various organisations to protest against the collection of toll at the toll plazas at Hejmady and Sasthan on National Highway 66 on Monday. They demanded that toll should not be collected till the widening work on the Hejmady-Kundapur stretch of the highway was fully completed.
While private inter-district buses from Udupi to Mangaluru and Kundapur, were affected, service buses to Karkala, Koppa, Shivamogga were unaffected. Passengers going towards Mangaluru and Kundapur were inconvenienced due to the bandh.
Abhilash, boat owner, was waiting for a bus at the Service Bus Stand here to go to Mangaluru. He wanted to visit the Fisheries Department office in that city. “Since there is no bus service today, I will go on Tuesday,” he said.
In Udupi city, private city buses and government low-floor city buses functioned as usual. Autorickshaws and taxi services were not affected. All business establishments functioned as usual here. While a few educational institutions declared a holiday, the others functioned as usual in the district. However, there was good response for the bandh call in Kaup and Padubidri, where business establishments and educational establishments were closed. Members of Nagarika Horata Samiti blocked the national highway for some time at Hejmady. The highway was also blocked for some time at Uchila, Sasthan, Kota and Mabukala.
There was vociferous protest in Padubidri, where a large number of protesters blocked the highway and demanded that the Deputy Commissioner meet them.
Addressing the protesters, Deviprasad Shetty, president of the Udupi Taluk Gram Panchayat Adhyakshara Okkoota, said that Navayuga Company, which had undertaken the widening work of the national highway on Hejmady-Kundapur stretch, had not completed the construction of service roads at several places. Vehicles with “KA 20” registration numbers should be exempted from paying toll, he said. When the police arrested some protesters and put them on a bus, the others gheraoed the bus. The police then released them. This happened twice as the police were vastly outnumbered by the protesters. Though prohibitory orders are in force in Udupi taluk, this did not deter the protesters.
Finally, Maheshchandra, Udupi Tahsildar, reached the spot and promised the protesters that no toll would be collected from vehicles with “KA 20” registration numbers in a five-kilometre radius of the toll plazas both at Hejmady and Sasthan till February 25. This pacified the protesters who cleared the highway for traffic.
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