Thursday, June 13, 2024

Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann checkmates farmers on toll-free roads

Orders removal of Tanda barrier ahead of stir
On a day when the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) laid siege to 18 toll plazas across 10 districts, CM Bhagwant Mann landed at the Lachowal toll barrier to make the Hoshiarpur-Tanda road toll-free. He ordered the removal of the toll barrier after its term ended yesterday. Since the KMSC, as part of its agitation against the government, had already announced to make the state roads toll-free till January 15, the CM’s order is seen as a tactical move to build AAP’s pro-people image and pre-empt any move by the committee to take credit for it. Government officials, however, claimed the CM’s visit was part of the ongoing exercise to act against erring toll operators. While announcing the closure of two toll barriers on the Sangrur-Ludhiana highway on September 5, the CM had said all toll plazas in the state would be closed on the set date. Flashing a copy of an FIR against Lachowal toll operator PD Agrawal Infrastructure Ltd, the CM claimed it minted Rs 105 crore for a road built by the state for Rs 7.76 crore in 2007. “All previous governments overlooked the violations by the toll operator, who earned Rs 7 crore per year for the past 15 years,” he alleged. The company was now asking for an extension for “loss” due to lockdown and farmers’ agitation. “When there was no investment by the company, how did it suffer any loss,” he asked. Mahendra Agarwal, MD, PD Agrawal Infrastructure Ltd, claimed, “The FIR is baseless. The government was asking us to pay Rs 15 crore for damages, but actually it owes us Rs 12 crore.”

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