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98 days and counting, the dharna to shift Pakho Kenchian toll plaza continues strong

As the agitation completes 100 days on December 3, locals who have been part of the protests said that the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the state has made no effort to reach out to them.

Protesting farmers at the toll plaza in Barnala (Express)

On August 26 this year, hundreds of farmers from the villages of Barnala came out in protest and squatted at the Pakho Kenchian — also known as Jagjit Pura — toll plaza. The one common demand that the protesters had was the shifting of the toll plaza to a point that was a few kilometres ahead of its present location.

The reason — residents of Barnala and even Jaito (in Faridkot) were forced to pay toll taxes for the entire stretch (70 km) despite only using a part of it. The toll plaza is located on NH-703.

As the agitation completes 100 days on December 3, locals who have been part of the protests said that the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the state has made no effort to reach out to them.

Bharti Kisan Union (Dakaunda), one of the unions that has thrown its weight behind the protests said, “A temporary hut has been made for some of the protesters to sleep at night. The rest of us sleep under the shed of the toll plaza. The protesters here are mostly farmers and we are used to weathering adversities,” said Kulwant Singh Bhadaur, one of the protesters at the site .

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Manjit Singh Dhaner, senior vice president of BKU Dakaunda, one of the outfits that has thrown its weight behind the protests said that they let all commuters to pass through the toll plaza but do not allow the staff there to collect any taxes from them.

“There is a toll plaza 30 km before this location on Badbar road and another near Taran Taran about 60 km from Pakho Kenchian. So, what is the need of this additional plaza. The highway leads to Moga – Jalandhar. Hence if this toll plaza is shifted by just a few kilometres, locals from this area will be able to travel on this route tax free. Our fight to get this stretch of road free from this unwanted tax will continue,” said Dhaner.

He added that the construction of the toll plaza started in early 2019, when the AAP was in the opposition. “At that time, the then Sangrur MP, Bhagwant Mann, along with AAP MLAs Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, Kulwant Singh Pandori and Peermal Khalsa, had joined our dharna and got the work stalled. But later, the administration gave its nod to restart construction. Then the farmer agitation against the three hence repealed agricultural laws started in Punjab from October 1,2020 onwards. The dharna from this toll plaza was lifted on December 15,2021.


The toll plaza was made operational within the next few days and cars had to pay Rs 110 for a single journey while buses paid Rs 350. The toll collection went on for a few months, before we returned to the spot and restarted our protests here after the Assembly elections in the state.

The toll plaza guys for now have agreed not to charge residents of 28 nearby villages. But the main problem remains. Why do we need so many toll plazas in such a small radius?”

Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer — Punjab’s higher education and sports minister — is the current Barnala MLA.


A second protester at the site, Kala Zaid, said that after the government in the state changed they expected a resolution of their issue. “We have been protesting here for close to three months now. But no AAP MLA has turned up to even talk to us. The administration hasn’t bothered calling us for a meeting. The government’s priorities have changed,” Zaid said.

The protesters at the site said that they have so far held three meetings with the then Deputy Commissioner of Barnala,Dr Harish Nayyar, but no resolution could be reached, The current DC of Barnala Punamdeep Kaur has joined recently taken charge. “I am aware of the pakka dharna being held at Pakho Kenchian. I am yet to convene a meeting and talk to the protesters,” she said, when contacted by The Indian Express.

Meanwhile, the farmers who have been squatting at the spot since Day 1 said they cooked all three meals at the protest site and they get dry ration from nearby villages. They claimed that sometimes some commuters stop and share a meal with them. “There is a temporary hut here. right now we are gearing up to deal with the long and cold winter season,” said Balbir Kaur, one of the women wing leaders of BKU Dakaunda.

The Indian Express tried contacting officials of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) for a comment on the issue, but they didn’t respond.

First published on: 02-12-2022 at 09:01 IST
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