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Congress leaders forcibly shut Ladhowal toll plaza on Panipat-Jalandhar highway

Party leaders have also started a relay protest to stop the collection of toll. Their main demand is that the company concerned, Soma Enterprises, complete construction of three pending flyovers on the national highway passing through the city.

chandigarh Updated: Mar 08, 2019 22:55 IST
Harsimran Singh Batra
Harsimran Singh Batra
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
Ladowal toll plaza,Panipat-Jalandar highway,Congress
High drama was seen as hundreds of Congress workers and leaders thronged the site, and opened the toll barriers.(HT Photo)

Congress leaders, led by MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, forcibly shut the Ladhowal toll plaza on the Panipat-Jalandhar highway on Friday. Party leaders have also started a relay protest to stop the collection of toll. Their main demand is that the company concerned, Soma Enterprises, complete construction of three pending flyovers on the national highway passing through the city.

The three locations are the Basti Jodhewal Chowk, the Sherpur Chowk and the Mohan Dai Oswal Cancer Hospital crossing. The toll for a car going from Ludhiana to Jalandhar, up-down, is ₹185, one of the costlier routes in the region.

MLA Surinder Dawar stopped the functioning of the plaza about 11am on Friday. By 11.30am, high drama was seen as hundreds of Congress workers and leaders thronged the site, and opened the toll barriers. This allowed free passage to vehicles. Heavy police force remained deployed.

“The construction company has failed to meet the deadline of the project that was 2011. The regional office of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and a Vidhan Sabha Committee has recommended that the collection of toll be suspended here. Even the deputy commissioner had recommended the suspension of toll collection in February,” Bittu said, adding that the company had collected around ₹1,800 crore as toll, since collection began in 2009.

“Accidents and traffic congestion are routine despite the toll. Why should Ludhiana residents pay, if they are not provided the infrastructure,” Bittu claimed. State cabinet minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, MLAs Sanjay Talwar, Kuldeep Vaid, Dawar and mayor Balkar Sandhu had accompanied the MP.

“The Congress will raze the toll plaza if collection is started before construction on the incomplete stretch begins,” said Vaid. Ashu added, “Congress leaders and workers will sit at the toll plaza everyday. The company will not be allowed to collect toll from residents.”

Designs not approved yet, claims firm

Soma Entreprises deputy general manager, toll operations, Nimesh Tiwari, said, “The project has been delayed as the designs for Sherpur Chowk and Mohan Dai Cancer Hospital Chowk have not been approved. At Basti Jodhewal, work is struck due to hindrances like electricity poles etc.”

On whether the company would lodge a police case against the Congress leadership, Tiwari said, “We will take action after discussion with senior police officials. Our priority is to start toll collection, as it is legal.”

Bittu slams Gadkari, SAD-BJP hits back

Bittu accused Union minister of road transport and highways of not completing work on the project due to vested interest. “Gadkari ensured that work started at Phagwara, but Ludhiana has been ignored for political reasons. The Centre does not want the Congress to get credit for the completion of the project.”

SAD’s Maheshinder Singh Grewal said, “This is gimmicks and cheap politics from Bittu. If the Congress and Bittu are sincere and honest, they should tell their government to deploy police at the toll plaza to ensure it does not function.” BJP district vice-president Parminder Mehta said, “If this is not a political stunt, then Bittu should also stop the MC from charging tax, as the condition of roads and other infrastructure in the city is also in a shambles.”

First Published: Mar 08, 2019 22:08 IST