A protest by diesel taxi drivers banned from operating in Delhi by the Supreme Court, caused a five-km jam on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway on Monday morning.
Similar jams were reported from places across the National Capital Region, including the DND Flyway connecting Noida with the city and the Delhi-Faridabad border in Badarpur. However, the Noida blockade was soon cleared by police.
The protest on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, taken up by around 400 cab drivers, brought traffic between Sirhaul toll plaza and Iffco Chowk to a standstill. Toll control room officials said the agitators began gathering on the Gurgaon side from 8 am, blocking the route.
After Gurgaon police drove the protesters away, they moved over to the Delhi side – blocking the road near Rajokri and causing an even bigger jam. Only two of the six expressway lanes facilitated traffic movement, and even that was slow due to the heavy congestion.
Major traffic jams were also reported at Akshardham, Mayur Vihar Phase-2, Sarai Kale Khan, Ashram intersection, Subroto Park, Palam Airport Road and Rao Tula Ram Marg. An unrelated agitation launched by the Aam Aadmi Party’s youth wing on the AgustaWestland issue resulted in the closure of both carriageways of Sansad Marg, leading to traffic snarls on adjacent roads and lanes.
Besides having to put up with traffic congestion, commuters were also forced to pay additional fare due to shortage of cabs. “There was heavy traffic jam and congestion on the road. The government should resolve the issue at the earliest,” said Bhupinder Singh, a motorist.
Cab operators, on the other hand, complained that they would be ruined because nearly half the taxis in Delhi-NCR run on diesel. “Whatever is happening is wrong. They are leaving us jobless by banning diesel cabs,” said Balbir Singh, who operates a taxi between Gurgaon and Noida.
His colleague, Rohtas, said the decision was taken in haste. “The ban is sudden. The government should have given us time. How can we get rid of diesel cabs overnight?” he asked.
The Delhi traffic police, however, said they will do their best to enforce the Supreme Court ruling by deploying personnel at the border checkpoints. “Our focus is to stop any diesel-run cab from entering the city. Over the day, we will divert our deployment into Delhi,” a senior officer said.
The Supreme Court on Saturday had refused to give more time to taxi operators to switch to the cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG) and banned the diesel and petrol-based taxis in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) from May 1.
The deadline for the change was extended twice earlier.
(With inputs from Delhi bureau)