Ladowal toll plaza remains free for sixth day amidst farmers protests

  • | Saturday | 22nd June, 2024

For the sixth consecutive day, the Ladhowal toll plaza in Punjab, known for its high toll rates, has been operating toll-free due to ongoing farmer protests. The standoff, orchestrated by various farmer unions, has allowed more than 1.75 lakh vehicles to pass through without paying toll taxes, resulting in substantial financial losses amounting to nearly Rs five crore for the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).   The protest, spearheaded by leaders such as Dilbagh Singh Gill from the Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Union and Indervir Singh Kadian from the Bharatiya Kisan Union, underscored farmers dissatisfaction with existing toll policies. They argue that toll charges, particularly at Ladhowal Plaza, are exorbitant and unfairly burden agricultural communities already grappling with economic challenges.   Farmers Ultimatum and Demands Amidst a growing chorus of dissent, farmers issued a stern ultimatum to the NHAI and the government — if their demands are not met by June 30, they will escalate protests by locking down toll plazas across Punjab indefinitely.   Signaling a deep-seated resolve among farmers to challenge what they perceive as exploitative toll practices, the farmer leaders declared, If our demands are not met by June 30, various organizations under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union will converge at the toll plaza in a unified demonstration.   Subsequently, on June 30, they plan to permanently shut down the toll plaza and secure it with locks, announced Gill. They mentioned that for the past six days, vehicles have been allowed to pass through Ladhowal Toll Plaza free of charge, and this will continue until further notice.   Dilbagh Singh Gill, addressing the media during the protest, reaffirmed farmers unwavering commitment to their cause, asserting that they will not back down until their demands are met. He criticized the Government for what he termed as neglecting the plight of farmers and emphasized their readiness to endure prolonged protests if necessary.   NHAI officials have thus far refrained from direct engagement with protesting farmers, exacerbating tensions at the toll plaza. Toll booth operations remain suspended, with toll collectors and security personnel rendered idle in the face of sustained farmer demonstrations. The lack of dialogue between NHAI and farmers has further fueled grievances and hardened the resolve of protesters.   Support from Commuters and Local Residents Despite disruptions caused by the toll-free protest, many commuters have expressed solidarity with the farmers cause, acknowledging their grievances regarding toll charges. Local residents within a 20-kilometer radius of Ladhowal Plaza, affected by the toll hikes, have also shown support for the ongoing protests, viewing them as a necessary stance against unjust economic policies.   New Toll Rates and Economic Impact Effective June 2, NHAI implemented revised toll rates at Ladhowal Plaza, significantly raising charges — Rs 220 for one-way travel from earlier charges of Rs 215, Rs 330 for round trips from Rs 325, and Rs 7,360 for monthly passes from Rs 7,175. These steep increases have sparked outrage among farmers and commuters alike, contributing to the intensifying protest at the toll plaza.   Similarly, the previous rate for light vehicles was Rs 350 one way, Rs 520 round trip, and Rs 11,590 monthly pass. Under the new rates, it is Rs 355 one way, Rs 535 round trip, and Rs 11,885 monthly pass.   For two-axle buses or trucks, the old rate was Rs 730 one way, Rs 1095 round trip, and Rs 24,285 monthly pass. Now, it is Rs 745 one way, Rs 1120 round trip, and Rs 24,905 monthly pass. Three-axle vehicles previously charged Rs 795 one way, Rs 1190 round trip, and Rs 26,490 monthly pass, while the updated rates are Rs 815 one way, Rs 1225 round trip, and Rs 27,170 monthly pass.   For heavy construction machinery with four axles, the old rate was Rs 1140 one way, Rs 1715 round trip, and Rs 38,085 monthly pass, which has now been increased to Rs 1170 for one way, Rs 1755 for round trip, and Rs 39,055 monthly pass.   For vehicles with seven or more axles, the previous rate was Rs 1390 one way, Rs 2085 round trip. In the new rates, it is Rs 1425 one way, Rs 2140 round trip, and Rs 47,545 monthly pass. Additionally, the toll pass rate for residents within a 20-kilometer radius of the toll plaza has increased from Rs 330 to Rs 340 since June 2.

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