Hours later, the police in Pune booked MNS chief Raj Thackeray and others for instigating violence. Mumbai Police detained at least 25 MNS activists who tried to flee after vandalizing the toll booth.

Police in Rajgad and Loni-Kalbhor towns in Pune district booked Thacekray and 17 others for instigating violence and abetting rioters who have been vandalizing toll booths in different parts of the state.

Cases have been filed also in connection with toll-booth violence on the Pune-Bangalore highway in the past couple of days in which some state transport buses were damaged.

The attacks on toll booths run by the government or authorized private agencies were launched on Sunday night in at least eight cities across the state.

Over the past two days, more than 70 political activists have been taken into custody even as Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Home Minister RR Patil appealed against violence and targetting of toll booths.

The latest attack came after a speech by Raj Thackeray, who called upon the people to refuse to pay toll and oppose any force by toll collectors and not bother about traffic jams resulting from their protests.

Stressing that hooliganism will not be tolerated, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Monday warned that if the vandals did not end their activities, the police ‘will not handle the situation softly’.

He also said that the government will study Thackeray's speech and initiate legal action against him if he was found instigating people to resort to violence.

There are 145 toll booths in the state, including 28 run by the National Highways Authority of India, 61 by the Maharashtra State Roads Development Corporation and 56 by the Maharashtra Public Works Department.

Initiated during the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party regime in 1995, the daily average collection at each toll booth is around Rs 9-10 million, contributing significantly to the state exchequer.


Latest News from State News Desk