Lachowal (Hoshiarpur): Continuing the spree of his government to close the toll plazas completing their terms in the state, the Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Thursday announced that people of the state will be given a huge relief by making the roads of the state ‘Toll free’.

Interacting with the media on the occasion, the Chief Minister announced to close Lachowal toll plaza on Hoshiapur- Tanda road as the term of toll plaza had expired on December 14, 2022. Assailing the previous governments in the state for overburdening people by mortgaging the roads of Punjab for their vested interests, he said that the state government will take every possible step to ensure that people are given reprieve from it. Bhagwant Mann said that this is the government of Punjabis and no stone will be left unturned to ensure their well being.

The Chief Minister said that the contract of Lachowal toll plaza had expired but the company was indulging in several tantrums to get it extended. He said that the company managing the toll plaza had sought an extension of 522 days citing Corona pandemic and farmer agitation. Bhagwant Mann categorically said that any other person would have agreed to the proposals of the company but he kept the interests of Punjabis above that of the company and decided to close it.

The Chief Minister said that as it was open loot of the public money, his government has denied the proposal and freed the toll plaza for the well being of people. He said that it was against the earlier practices when the people in power used to give such extensions without bothering about the welfare of people, for the sake of their vested interests. Bhagwant Mann said that rather than this his government has taken a pro-people stand to shut this toll plaza and end the open plunder and harassment of the general public.

The Chief Minister said that more such toll plazas will be closed in the coming days as the state government is already preparing the list of all such defaulters. He revealed that the company who was managing the toll plaza at Lachowal had blatantly violated the norms since 2007. Bhagwant Mann said that the company had not even adhered to a single clause of the agreement but the successive governments since 2007 had turned a blind eye towards it.

The Chief Minister further said that the company had minted more than Rs 105 crore from this road without even constructing the road. He said that in a brazen violation the company had diverted the funds collected from the toll in a private account. Bhagwant Mann said that the state government has lodged a FIR against the company under section 420, 465, 466, 467, 471 and others.

The Chief Minister said that if needed the state government will blacklist this company to ensure that no such plunder takes place in future. He further said that for several years people shelved huge amounts of money from their pockets to pass through this toll plaza. Describing it as a major relief to people, Bhagwant Mann emphasized that people can travel freely on roads without paying a whopping toll on this toll plaza from Thursday.

The Chief Minister reminded the people that due to such toll plazas the prices of common goods are escalating as their transport charges enhance after crossing every toll. Bhagwant Mann asserted that toll plaza owners enhance the charges as per their whims and fancies thereby putting a huge burden on the pocket of common man. However, he said that his government will not allow any loot of people and every effort will be made to safeguard their rights.

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