Just like the 27.7-kilometre-long thoroughfare that they are employed to man and maintain, the traffic marshals of Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway more often than not end up defeating the very purpose of their existence. Even as unruly motorists and untidy traffic management cause congestion all along the expressway, the marshals stand helpless and toothless.
The concessionaire firm, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Ltd (DGSCL), has time and again claimed that it has deputed 150 traffic marshals to help the police ease the traffic situation and direct the drivers to follow rules, but to no avail.
“We have traffic marshals deployed at the toll plaza and at entry/exit points, junctions, etc all along the expressway. However, when there is violation of traffic rules, they do not have the authority to enforce discipline. The defaulters know that the marshals can’t penalise them and so they continue to flout the rules,” said a spokesperson of DGSCL.
HT also found out that most of the traffic marshals just hang out around their posts without caring much for the way traffic moves. Though some were found trying to do their bit, most were seen whiling away time on the roadside under the shade of bushes or enjoying a smoke.
“These traffic marshals are ill-equipped, ill-trained and ill-mannered, and have been deputed just as a matter of show by DGSCL,” claimed RS Rathee, vice-president of Toll Hatao Sangharsh Samiti.
However, a traffic marshal hailing from Kanpur told HT, “People never listen to us. If we try to be strict, they fight with us and sometimes beat us also. It is a very difficult duty to perform.”
The concessionaire has claimed that there are other violations as well such as overspeeding, overloading, incorrect parking, lane jumping, etc to check which they have repeatedly asked the traffic police to step in as the latter are in a position to enforce discipline by challaning the errant vehicles.
But, the Gurgaon police have maintained that according to the state support agreement that the firm had signed with the governments of Delhi and Haryana, DGSCL needs to pay for deployment of extra traffic cops. Joint commissioner of police (traffic) Bharti Arora had earlier told HT, “The concessionaire needs to pay us the outstanding amount running into crores of rupees under the state support agreement before we can provide any additional force to it.”
However, DGSCL denies having any monetary liability towards the police and maintains that the traffic cops had been deployed on the expressway as part of execution of routine duty and not under the agreement.
‘Rule violators are not afraid of them’
As told to Himabindu Reddy KS Bedi , (Retd) ACp for traffic, Road safety wing, new delhi
The marshals deployed at the Gurgaon expressway toll plazas have been rendered useless as they don’t wear khakhi or wield lathi.
It is a mentality ingrained in the Indian psyche that a man in the police uniform is the one who controls. Hence, commuters don’t feel afraid on seeing a marshal as opposed to when they see a police officer.
The role of a marshal on the expressway is to check if the commuters paid the toll or obeyed the traffic rules. They are responsible for ensuring that the barricades are placed in the right manner to organise the traffic flow towards the toll plaza.
Other than this, the marshals have no powers and are as good as civilians.
They cannot penalize commuters for traffic violations as the exercise can lead to traffic jams at the toll plaza, thereby creating havoc.
There was a time when these marshals used to penalize commuters at the toll.
The activity was later stopped as the authorities realised it was leading to snarls.
Although they have an important task to do, the marshals just stand on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway to ensure that the lanes are cleared for the VIPs to pass.
The solution to this inefficiency is to simply extend the barricading of the toll by at least half a mile. This will make the commuters stick to the lane from a distance much before entering the toll.
The other side: Threatened and harassed
The traffic marshals deployed by the concessionaire at the toll plazas allege that the commuters seldom listen to them or heed their orders.
Given the design faults of the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, especially when it comes to the entry and exit points from the main carriageway, the necessity of traffic management has led concessionaire Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Ltd to deploy 150 traffic marshals.
“These traffic marshals are not equipped to handle the pressure of the task as they lack training. Mostly, they are from rural backgrounds and have no idea about how to go about their jobs. You can see them just sitting or standing idly, doing nothing,” said Toll Hatao Sangharsh Samiti general secretary Attar Singh Sandhu.
However, traffic marshals claim that they are often at the receiving end of the brash behaviour of commuters.
“We have no power to penalize erring drivers. We stop two-wheelers from going on to the expressway, but they just don’t listen. They even abuse us. Four-wheelers try to enter the carriageway from the exits and we can’t do anything because there have been instances where they have tried to run over us,” said a traffic marshal at an entry point.
The concessionaire argues that indiscipline is rife as cash users deliberately force their way into tag lanes. Also, slow moving vehicles force their way on to the main carriageway at the entry points.
The offenders ignore the marshals as they know that they have no statutory locus standi.
Even traffic police agree to this observation.
“Commuters give no heed to the traffic marshals. Sometimes, they do not even listen to us,” said a traffic police constable deputed at an intersection along the expressway.
But residents maintain that they feel hassled by these marshals.
“The presence of traffic marshals is just symbolic and ornamental. More often, they are unemployed youth from the constituency of some powerful neta who gets them this job. The concessionaire is to blame for having employed them,” said Sushil Khanna, general secretary of Ardee City RWA.