Punjab CM announces closure of toll plaza on Hoshiarpur-Tanda road - Hindustan Times
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Punjab CM announces closure of toll plaza on Hoshiarpur-Tanda road

Dec 15, 2022 05:27 PM IST

Bhagwant Mann says FIR registered against firm running Lachowal toll plaza for breaching build operate transfer (BOT) agreement, “misappropriated money” will be recovered

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann on Thursday announced the closure of the Lachowal toll plaza on the Hoshiarpur-Tanda road, stating that the Aam Aadmi Party government has refused to grant extension as demanded by the toll operating company.

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann on Thursday announced the closure of the Lachowal toll plaza on the Hoshiarpur-Tanda road, stating that the Aam Aadmi Party government has refused to grant extension as demanded by the toll operating company. (Ht file photo)
Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann on Thursday announced the closure of the Lachowal toll plaza on the Hoshiarpur-Tanda road, stating that the Aam Aadmi Party government has refused to grant extension as demanded by the toll operating company. (Ht file photo)

Also read: Punjab sends panel of three IPS officers for appointment of new Chandigarh SSP

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Mann said that a first information report (FIR) has been registered against M/s PD Aggarwal Private Limited for breaching the build operate transfer (BOT) agreement. He was accompanied by deputy speaker Jai Krishan Singh Rouri and cabinet minister Brahm Shankar Jimpa.

Addressing the media, Mann said that the toll company had been allowed by previous governments to loot people, claiming that it collected more than 7 crore annually for 15 years in the name of maintenance. The company had asked for an extension of 522 days to recover losses incurred due to the farmers’ protest and the Covid pandemic lockdown but the government had rejected the claim, he said.

SAYS SAD, CONG GOVTS WERE HAND IN GLOVE

“The 27.9-kilometre-long road was built by the government at a cost of 7.76 crore and handed over to the private company for maintenance in March 2007. Since then, it was collecting 1.94 lakh daily but neither did it maintain the account properly nor fulfil other obligations. After taking legal advice, the FIR was registered against the company,” Mann said, maintaining that all misappropriated money will be recovered.

On the complaint of the executive engineer PWD (B&R), the FIR has been registered at Bulhowal police station under Sections 420 (cheating) 465 (forgery) 466 (aggravated form of forgery) 467 (forgery of valuable security) 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) 471 (fraudulent use of document) of the Indian Penal Code.

The complaint states that the concessionaire breached the escrow (third party) agreement and deposited the toll collection in private accounts rather than in the escrow account.

Company manager Divakar Pandey refused to comment on the issue, saying it was between the government and company owners. However, he said that the company had filed a writ in the Punjab and Haryana high court for relief.

Mann said it was the government’s duty to create road infrastructure but the Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress governments had brought in private companies for vested interests.

“Neither Sukhbir Singh Badal (former deputy CM) nor Captain Amarinder Singh (former chief minister) terminated the contracts of toll companies despite knowing that they were violating agreement terms,” said Mann, adding that the previous governments deliberately allowed the fleecing of commuters.

He said his government will not grant extension to any of toll companies and all toll plazas in the state will be removed on the expiry of existing agreements.

Evading a reply on the contractual employees who would be rendered jobless following the closure of the toll barriers, the chief minister said that his government was generating more employment opportunities for youngsters.

OPPN, FARMERS TERM CM’S ANNOUNCEMENT DRAMA

Congress district president and former MLA Arun Dogra said the AAP government was seeking cheap publicity by playing up the toll issue.

SAD leader Jatinder Singh Lally Bajwa said it would have been better if Mann had come to address other public issues as the toll plaza was to shut down in any case after the expiry of the agreement.

The Azad Kisan Sangharsh Committee termed the chief minister’s announcement of freeing the road of toll tax, a drama. Its president Parminder Singh Lachowal said the agreement with the toll company had expired and it was to be closed anyway. He said the farmers would not have allowed the toll plaza to continue further, too.

Earlier, a car was charged 52, while other light motor vehicles were charged 79, and trucks and buses 157 at the toll plaza.

Eh chhota motta chalda rehnda,

says CM Mann on UT SSP row

Responding to a query on the face-off with governor Banwarilal Purohit over the premature repatriation of Punjab-cadre IPS officer and Chandigarh SSP Kuldeep Singh Chahal, Mann said. “There is no clash with the governor.”

“Eh chhota motta chalda rehnda (Small things keep happening),” he said while referring to the issue of the appointment of the Union Territory senior superintendent of police.

He said a panel of names of three IPS officers has been submitted to the governor and “a Punjab-cadre officer will be appointed as Chandigarh SSP very soon”.

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