M A I N   N E W S

Cong workers get a free ride through toll plazas, but at whose cost?
Geetanjali Gayatri/TNS


Punam Anand, who was travelling on the Highway No 21 at that time, has written to the National Highway Authority of India wanting to know why Congress vehicles were “exempted” from paying the toll while she was charged at all three toll plazas on the way.

Chandigarh, November 5
A Congress flag or a Congress leader’s poster — that was all it took for a free run on the National Highway No. 21 between Chandigarh and Delhi as the toll gates were thrown open to “vehicles pasted with Congress posters” yesterday.

Courtesy the party’s maha rally at Delhi’s Ramlila ground, vehicles carrying “enthused” Congress workers and their supporters from Panchkula, Ambala, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra and Punjab were allowed “free passage” through the three toll plazas, causing financial loss to the concessionaire.

The loss to the concessionaries is pegged between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 10 lakh if their “very nominal” estimation of 700 vehicles is taken into account. Sources, however, said thousands of vehicles drove through the toll plazas at Dappar, Nilokheri and Panipat.

Congress “supporters” drove past in “poster-rich” cars, buses, school buses, trolleys and trucks to make the rally a “runaway success”.

It was, however, just another day for the common man, the Congress so staunchly claims to stand by, who queued up to pay the toll as usual.

A poster pasted on the vehicle was good enough for it to be “let off” without paying any toll. Some even “got away” with flags painted on the number plates or fluttering on the bonnet. For them, toll gates opened without a hitch to provide smooth passage, while regular commuters looked on.

Travelling on the highway, Punam Anand, who has written to the National Highway Authority of India, sought to know why Congress vehicles were “exempted” from paying the toll while she was charged money at all three toll plazas.

“Leaders and workers who get political status due to the votes of the common citizens like us were allowed to proceed without paying user charges at the toll plazas,” she has complained. If such a “concession” was to be given to rally-headed vehicles, it should have been extended to all vehicles plying on the NH-21.

President of the state unit of the Congress Phool Chand Mullana, however, said if any such “concession” was allowed, it was between the vehicle owners and the toll plaza staff. “I have no knowledge about it,” he said.

Another senior leader conceded that Congress vehicles were “exempted” because they were carrying farmers and the rally was for a “good cause”.

Meanwhile, SOMA general manager Pramod Kumar admitted that a large number of Congress vehicles headed for Delhi crossed the Nilokheri toll barrier at Karnal without paying any tax, which is about Rs 90 for a car and Rs 300 for a truck at one point.

“We allow religious processions to pass through toll barriers without paying any tax. Our staff did make an attempt to stop vehicles ferrying Congress workers, but they refused to pay. We did not have a choice since they came in large numbers. So, the staff allowed them to go through without paying anything. We will write to the NHAI in that regard. Even if 700-odd vehicles crossed the plazas, the loss at one such point would be over Rs 2.5 lakh,” he said.





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