While shortchanging of visitors goes unabated at various parking lots auctioned by the municipal corporation (MC), even those under the district administration have not been spared by the extortionist contractor.
Hundreds of visitors are being fleeced by the contractor - Bhola and Co - at the multi-level parking on the premises of mini-secretariat complex, not more than 100 metres away from the deputy commissioner's (DC) office and around 30 metres away from the additional deputy commissioner's (ADC) office.
When an HT team reached the multi-level parking at the mini-secretariat, it found that visitors were being charged `20 for two-wheelers against the approved rate of `12 and `30-40 for four-wheelers against prescribed rate of `23.
Several visitors were also seen arguing with the parking attendants against the overcharging.
When the team reported the matter to DC Rajat Agarwal, he referred it to Ludhiana East sub-divisional magistrate Ajay Sood, who said he would look into the matter.
The fleecing continues despite a trader reporting the menace to deputy commissioner on June 18 after he and his son were allegedly assaulted by the parking attendants when he raised voice against overcharging. The police had later registered a case of assault.
Incidentally, the same contractor has been fleecing visitors at the parking lots on Ferozepur Road for past one month, since the MC auctioned the lots. However, the civic body has failed to act against the contractor overlooking its own terms and conditions of issuing a `1,000 fine on every complaint and cancelling contract after receiving three complaints.
"I was charged `20 for a two-wheeler. When I told them that the approved fee is `12, they started arguing with me. This is sheer harassment," said Bakhtawar Singh, a city resident.
Another city resident Gurjeet Kaur Bedi was also charged `20 for parking of two-wheelers. She said the attendants were fooling the visitors by claiming that the rates depicted on the walls were old.
However, as soon as the parking staff got to know about presence of the HT team, they started returning the overcharged money to some of the visitors, including Bakhtawar and Gurjeet.
The staff then also admitted that the parking fee was `12 for two-wheelers. The parking staff, who did not reveal their names, also offered refreshments and parking pass facility to this correspondent, while requesting not to report the matter.
Parking lot outside complex cordoned off
A parking lot on the Ferozepur Road outside the mini-secretariat has been cordoned off, forcing visitors to park inside the multi-level parking.
While the parking fee at the lot, which was auctioned by the MC to the same contractor, is `5 for two-wheelers and `10 for four-wheelers for the first hour, parking inside the complex means visitors have to shell out `20 for two-wheelers and double for four-wheelers.
It remains unknown why and who has roped off this area.