Amid protests by opposition parties and local residents against the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) made Lakhanpur toll plaza in Kathua district operational from Tuesday morning.
The toll plaza was inaugurated by Ajay Kumar Rajak, project director, Jammu NHAI, who claimed that the toll plaza was supposed to be made operational in 2012 when the four-laning of Jammu-Pathankot highway was completed.
This is the fourth toll post in Jammu region.
“It could not be made operational due to certain reasons. We have now made it operational and local people within a radius of 20-km would be issued monthly pass,” Rajak said.
The commencement of toll plaza triggered protests in the area with hundreds of local people, workers of Congress, Panthers Party workers and Youth Federation Lakhanpur, and office-bearers of truckers’ union staging a noisy demonstration against the BJP-led NDA government and accusing it of “institutionalised loot” amid growing inflation.
A large contingent of police and paramilitary police personnel was deployed at Lakhanpur keeping in view the apprehensions of protests and unrest in the area.
“Since 2014, this is the fourth toll collection centre in Jammu province. After giving the Union Territory (UT) status to Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP had claimed that there will be no toll plaza in the UT but they have resorted to open loot. The government should immediately disband this toll post,” Congress leader Pankaj Dogra alleged.
Congress leaders claimed the BJP had been installing toll plazas on roads which were completed at the time of the UPA government.
Ranjit Singh, ex-president of local truckers’ union, said the toll plaza would prove the last nail in the coffin of transporters who have already been facing huge losses.
The protestors had a scuffle with the security personnel after they tried to march toward the toll collection centre. Later, they also courted their arrest in protest against operationalisation of the toll plaza.
The NHAI has signed a Letter of Agreement for operationalisation of the toll plaza at Lakhanpur with Haryana-based Ranchordas Company. With this, all Kashmir-bound tourists and Vaishno Devi pilgrims entering or leaving J&K will now shell out extra money on toll at three different toll posts—Thandi Khui toll plaza, Ban Toll Plaza and Lakhanpur toll plaza.
Two more toll posts—one each at the upcoming Ring Road and Jammu-Akhnoor highway—have also been proposed in the region.