Addressing a gathering while announcing the closure of two toll plazas on the Sangrur-Ludhiana road, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann emphasized that toll plaza charges burn a hole in people’s pockets as their operators increase fees arbitrarily. He further staed that prices of common goods escalate as their transportation charges go up. Mann had raised the issue in Parliament but to no avail. Toll plaza operators enhance charges “as per their whims and fancies,” thereby, putting a huge burden on the pocket of people, Punjab CM stated. Mann further said that he has rejected the demand for a 20-month extension by operators of the two plazas on the Sangrur-Ludhiana road.
The toll plazas are located in Ladda and Ahmedgarh areas. The operators of the toll plaza had requested the extension or a compensation of Rs 50 crore, citing losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the farmers’ agitation against the now-repealed farm laws. Mann said the seven-year term of the toll plaza was going to end on Sunday midnight and reasoned that Covid-19 was a global disaster and everybody suffered because of it.
“We will not give any extension or compensation,” he said. The chief minister also said the farmers’ stir was the result of the wrong farm laws enacted by the Centre, for which the Union government had even sought an “apology.” Mann hit out at the previous Akali Dal government for allowing the setting up of the two toll plazas after the Dhuri byelections in 2015.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had promised that the toll plazas would not be set up but immediately after the Akali Dal candidate won the bypolls, the government took a U-turn, Mann said. For seven years, people paid a huge amount to pass through these toll plazas, he added.
Describing the announcement of the closure of the toll plazas as a major relief to people, Mann said now they can travel freely on the road without paying toll tax from Monday. Reiterating that his government is regularly working to restore the pristine glory of the state, Mann said it is a matter of great pride and satisfaction for him that the Tata group will set up a big project in the state near Ludhiana with an investment of Rs 2,600 crore.
He emphasized that this is the biggest investment by Tata Steel after Jamshedpur, adding that more key industrial projects will be set up in the state in the coming days. This is because now these companies are coming for investing in the state and are signing agreements with Punjab, he said.
He said earlier such investors shied away from investing as they were forced to sign agreements with the “ruling families instead of the state.” His predecessors used to ask what benefit their families will get from such projects but on the contrary, he asks how many youths will get jobs from these projects, said Mann.
(With inputs from PTI)