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Posted at: Jan 10, 2016, 1:32 AM; last updated: Jan 10, 2016, 1:05 AM (IST)

Now on, no toffees at toll plazas

Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 9

Just about a month after the Punjab and Haryana High Court was told that toll plaza operators in Punjab are making money out of toffee business, the Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority has claimed that the system would soon be made more palpable. In future toll contracts fee would be rounded off to the nearest Rs 5.

Besides this, all Executive Engineers and other senior officers have been directed to ensure that government instructions on fee collection at toll plazas were strictly implemented.

The development is significant as the High Court was earlier told that four toll plazas on state-owned roads were earning no less than Rs 9,600 by distributing toffees instead of handing back the change.

Responding to the allegations, representatives of the toll plazas told the Regulatory Authority intimated that they regularly took coins up to Rs 6 lakh per month from the RBI. In case of shortage, they obtained coins from religious places such as gurdwaras. Punjab Traffic Advisor Navdeep K Asija had earlier minced no words to say the concessionaires, operation and maintenance contractor running toll plazas in Punjab were returning confectioneries such as toffees and chocolates, instead of coins as small change. This was not only objectionable, but an illegal practice on the contractor’s part.

Elaborating, Asija said the fee at most of the toll plazas was not in round figure and commuters do not always carry the exact change. By handing toffees instead of change, the toll plaza contractors were indulging in sale of these goods, which was not permissible according to the concession agreement between the contractor and the state government.

The bench was also told that the bulk wholesale price of toffees was probably only around 55 to 60 paisa per piece. “By handing them out for the retail price of Rs 1 each, the contractors were selling them at a profit of about 40 paisa per piece”. He added a study performed at four toll plazas of state-owned roads showed the profit was around Rs 9,600, which remained unaccounted. Asija insisted the toffees were invariably given against the commuters’ will, but they invariably found it difficult to argue on the spot due to long queues.

Referring to “high traffic volume toll roads” such as Balachaur-Dasua, Patiala-Patran, Hoshiarpur-Tanda, Ludhiana-Malerkotla-Sangrur, Kiratpur Una, Patiala- Nabha-Malerkota, he said the daily estimated unaccounted profit was Rs 25,000. The amount was enough to meet daily office operational expenses of the concessionaires.

Pointing out at a notification issued by the Department of Public Works, he said the concession agreement between the state government and the concessionaire or contractor did not include sale of goods in lieu of small change.

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