Offering of candies instead of change at toll plazas will be a thing of the past on highways as the Punjab traffic adviser has written to the Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority and Punjab Infrastructure Development Board to curb the illegal activity.
The traffic adviser was appointed following the Punjab and Haryana high court directions. “Commuters accept candies and wafers against their will. Yet, this practice continues unabated. It is objectionable and illegal,” Punjab traffic adviser Navdeep K Asija conveyed to the Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority chairman and managing director through a letter, a copy of which is with HT, on December 17.
According to sources, contractors at four toll plazas highways across the state earn around `10,000 a day by giving away candies and wafers to commutes instead of change. Asija says: “This practice is banned and is not permissible under the concession agreement signed between the contractor and the state government.”
The traffic adviser referred to the notification of the public works department (72/PA 13/1998/Sc 2, 3 and 4/2003), stating “the concession agreement between the Punjab government and the concessionaire or contractor is for construction, operation and maintenance or only for operation and maintenance or for levy and collection of toll of whole or section of the state highway(s)”. The agreement does not mention the sale of goods at toll plazas.
In its July 3, 2014, circular, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) called for curbing of the practice by imposing penalty on the contractor or termination of the contract. The NHAI recommended pasting notices on toll booths informing commuters not to accept candies, chocolates and wafers instead of change. The authority also advocated checks on toll plazas by the project director concerned of the state.
As per calculations by the office of the traffic advisor in respect of the four toll plazas in Punjab - Moga-Kotkapura; Ferozepur-Fazilka; Dakha-Raikot-Barnala and Bhwanigarh-Nabha-Gobindgarh - more than 58,000 candies, chocolates and wafers amounting to `23,200 are given to commuters per day.
“The bulk or wholesale price of candies is around 60 paisa per piece. These are handed out to the commuters passing through the toll plazas for `1. In return, the contractor gets a profit of 40 paisa per piece. That is how the profit earned comes to around `23,200 per day. This amount remains unaccounted,” stated the adviser in a communication to the Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority.
“Besides the four major roads, the state has many other toll roads, including Balachaur-Dasua, Patiala-Patran, Hoshiarpur-Tanda, Ludhiana-Malerkotla-Sangrur, Kiratpur-Una and Patiala-Nabha-Malerkotla, which may account for estimated profit of `50,000 per day, enough to meet the daily office expenses of contractors. And the shortage of coins is no excuse,” said Asija.
Talking to HT, managing director, Punjab Infrastructure Development Board, Venu Prashad said: “We are yet to receive the letter, but we will take appropriate action to curb this illegal practice.”
Chairman of the Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority DS Bains said: “I have asked all the parties to appear before the authority on January 6.”