Karkala: The Belman Tollgate Kendra Horata Samiti, on Sunday, October 7, took out a massive protest against the proposed opening of the toll gate in Belman from October 15. The protest was jointly carried out by the common man, elected representatives and religious leaders. There were people from as many as 27 neighbouring villages and members from vehicle owners associations, social organizations, bus owner's association, auto unions and various local organizations who joined hands for the protest.
This was one of the most diverse and united protests held so far. Various political leaders from different parties and religious leaders shared the dais and held hands to show their unity. In all, more than 5,000 people took part in the protest.
During the protest, state Upper House Opposition leader MLC Kota Srinivas Poojary said that they would not allow the opening of a toll gate on Belman and accused the state government of only wanting to fill its coffers. "It is undemocratic and will cause a lot of inconvenience to the people," he added.
Karkala MLA V Sunil Kumar condemned the government for attempting to collect toll without entering into a basic agreement at the time of the construction of the road. "Its foolish to start collecting toll four years after the completion of the road construction. As MLA of this constituency, I will use all my power to prevent the collection of toll and give my constituents justice," he said, adding that he would meet with the Chief Minister within two days and ask him to repeal the proposal of the toll. He also informed that he has sent an appeal to the district in-charge minister regarding the issue.
Speaking at the protest, Sri Esha Vittaldas Swamiji of the Kemar Sandipani Sadhanashram said that it is regrettable that the very government responsible for providing basic infrastructure to its citizens, wants to collect toll from the taxpayers who have paid for the construction of the roads. "It is unfortunate that we will have to pay a toll to visit the popular religious centres in Karkala. I am supportive of this protest that is indiscriminate of caste, religion, party and creed," he said.
Parish priest of St Joseph's Church, Belman Fr Edwin D'Souza, who was also involved in the protest said that this fight, which has united people from all divisions will succeed and justice would be served.
Representatives from various political parties, Gurme Suresh Shetty, former MLA Gopal Bhandary, MLC Ivan D’Souza, Kaup MLA Lalaji Mendon, Belapu Devi Prasad Shetty, Harish Shetty and others were present for the protest.
Organised and clean protest
Protests usually of such massive proportions usually see a trail of garbage being left behind by the participants. This was not the case during the Belman toll protest as cleanliness was given a priority. Pieces of paper and other rubbish that fell along the way were cleaned up. Free transport was also provided to those who had come from the neighbouring villages. Yermal Satish Poojary and Bola Satish Poojary provided breakfast, Crusher owners sponsored lunch and Shirva Kollabettu Ravindra Shetty provided mineral water to those who participated in the protest. An organised parking system was also put in place for over 300 trucks and numerous other vehicles.
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