Alleging large-scale bungling in the working of toll barrier at Ladowal, workers of the Bahujan Samaj Party blocked the national highway near the toll plaza and staged a protest on Thursday.
The protesters, led by Ramanjit Lalli, said that despite the six-lane project from Panipat to Jalandhar lying incomplete and Sutlej bridge being in a pathetic condition, the SAD-BJP government was charging toll tax from the common man whereas the private bus companies, around 40 in number, were allowed to cross the toll plaza without paying anything.
Talking to Newsline, Lalli said, “Large-scale bungling is going on at the Ladowal toll plaza. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is allowing private buses to cross the toll plaza without paying a single penny. However, despite Sutlej bridge, flyover projects and roads being in pathetic condition, people are asked to pay toll tax for travelling on the national highway.”
“We stopped few buses at toll plaza and asked their drivers if they paid the tax and they replied ‘saddi upar setting hai (we have a setting with higher authorities),” alleged Lalli. “Punjab Roadways buses are being asked to pay toll tax but around 40 private companies including Orbit (allegedly owned by Badal clan) are not being charged leading to losses of Rs 6 lakh per day.”
Talking to the media, NHAI managers Dinesh Kumar and Kailash Sharma admitted that few private companies cross the toll plaza without paying taxes. “Whenever we ask for tax from buses, they indulge in hooliganism and threaten our employees. Multiple complaints were made to Ladowal police but no action was taken.” The toll plaza came into existence in 2008.
ACP (rural) Gupreet Singh Sikand, who reached the spot, said, “We have arranged a meeting of protesters with higher authorities of NHAI. Complaints of buses crossing toll plaza without paying are being looked into.”