NEW DELHI: The Centre has taken up the matter of the protesting farmers making toll plazas free in Haryana and Punjab with both the state governments given the big losses being faced by the concessionaires on the national and the state highways.
While toll plazas in Punjab have been “free” for commuters for the past three months, the farmers protesting against the new farm laws announced on Sunday that toll plazas in Haryana will also be “free” indefinitely till the Centre meets their demands. Earlier, they had said they would make toll plazas free for only three days from December 25-27.
“I have visited various toll plazas in Haryana in the past two days and the overwhelming opinion of farmers camping there was that these toll plazas should be made free for commuters indefinitely and the dharnas there should continue like in Punjab. So, we have decided that toll will not be charged from commuters indefinitely at all toll plazas in Haryana,” said Gurnam Singh Charuni, head of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.
Charuni said he went to the toll plazas in Jhajjar, Rohtak, Panipat, Hisar and Jind, where farmers are camping at the toll plazas and the staff posted there went away after the protestors said no commuter would be paying the toll.
The toll plaza protest extension has come as Haryana’s farmers are also angry over the state government lodging cases against them for protesting against chief minister Manohar Lal and other ministers this week and showing black flags to their cavalcades. The farmers had also given a call to people to vote against BJP and JJP candidates in the local body polls that were held in Haryana on Sunday.
A senior official of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) told ET that the toll plazas matter had been taken up with both the Punjab and Haryana state governments as the concessionaires were suffering losses of crores of rupees. “The traffic movement is also less on the highways in Punjab and Haryana due to the blockades, besides the big dip in the toll collection as the tolls have been made free. Our project directors are also in touch with the respective district authorities in both states,” said the official, who did not wish to be identified.
The toll plazas being made free in both states also comes close on the heels of the NHAI’s decision to make electronic payment compulsory through FASTag on toll plazas from January 1.