MNS launches anti-toll road blocks in state
Discarding police notices and warnings, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) launched its state-wide road blocks here since Wednesday morning to protest toll collection in the state, officials said.
MNS activists, including representatives of its women's wings, stormed roads and highways on the outskirts of Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Raigad, Nashik and other areas, attempting to halt the morning peak hour traffic.
Though there are no reports of any violence or damage to public property, some people burnt vehicle tyres in an effort to stop traffic near Pune and Nashik.
In some places, vehicle tyres were deflated to stop vehicular movement, leading to traffic snarls.
Police, accompanied by Rapid Action Force, were out in large numbers, stopping, catching and detaining hundreds of MNS activists.
However, school vehicles and college students were not prevented by the activists and allowed to proceed to their institutions as usual, as also ambulances and other essential services.
The agitation continued even as Mumbai police served notices on nearly 400 MNS office-bearers and activists Wednesday, asking them to exercise restraint.
"We have received the notice asking us to refrain from any activity that could result in law and order problems. We keep getting such notices everytime we launch any agitation program," said a MNS spokesperson.
Preparing for a defiant MNS, the police and the government machinery was geared up to handle the road blocks with security personnel deployed at sensitive locations, major roads, highways, junctions and entry-exit points to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Aurangabad, Nagpur and others.
Security has also been beefed up at the 145 toll collection booths across the state.
In the past few weeks, activists purportedly of the MNS vandalized several toll booths in places like Kolhapur, Thane, Mumbai, Aurangabad and Pune.
The latest round of anti-toll agitation started Jan 26 at a Navi Mumbai rally when Raj Thackeray urged people not to pay toll and last Sunday he announced the state-wide road blockade programme in Pune.
The MNS has made it clear that all toll collections should be stopped for projects where the costs have been recovered and even in others, the rates should be rationalized.
A grim Home Minister R.R. Patil warned Tuesday the government would not hesitate to arrest Thackeray to prevent any law and order issues.
(Posted on 12-02-2014)