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Meghalaya chief minister to meet Sonia Gandhi over toll gates

Shillong, July 16 (Calcutta Tube) Accused by truckers in Meghalaya of not doing anything to stop the mushrooming illegal toll gates along the national highways, where armed men extort Rs.6,000 per trip from each truck, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma Friday denied the charges and left for New Delhi to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi to give a clarification on the issue.

The All North East Commercial Truckers’ and Owners’ Association (ANECTOA) has accused Chief Minister Sangma of abetting extortion along the highway through illegal toll gates.

Sangma rubbished the truckers’ allegations and said his government is for zero tolerance on illegal toll gates and had issued directives to district authorities to dismantle them.

‘We have taken action against these illegal toll gates and if they are still there, the government will act accordingly,’ Sangma said.

The chief minister will meet Sonia Gandhi to clear the charges levelled against him by the truckers.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, headed by CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury, is to visit Meghalaya to probe the issue.

‘The committee will visit Meghalaya for on the spot verification of the illegal toll gates soon after the monsoon session of parliament,’ Thomas Sangma, member Rajya Sabha from Meghalaya, told IANS.

Thomas Sangma, also member of the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture said that the panel decided to visit Meghalaya after a truckers’ body complained about the existence of unauthorized gates.

‘The truckers’ have submitted a memorandum on the illegal activities and our Parliamentary Committee Chairman (Sitaram Yechury) has decided to take up the issue seriously,’ he said.

Earlier in the day, East Garo Hills district Deputy Commissioner Pravin Bakshi said 30 people who operated illegal toll gates were arrested and 18 such gates dismantled along National Highway 62 in Meghalaya.

‘The crackdown will continue,’ Bakshi told IANS.

The ANECTOA has charged Sangma with abetting extortion on National Highway 62.

According to the truckers’ body, there are more than 29 such illegal toll gates manned by armed people extorting over Rs.6,000 per truck per trip on the highway.

National Highway 62 connects Meghalaya’s East and South Garo Hills districts and West Khasi Hills district.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and Sitaram Yechury, chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, assured the truckers that they would raise the issue in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

The ANECTOA has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi to direct the Meghalaya government to dismantle all illegal check gates and initiate a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into them.

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