Resentment is brewing among residents of 31 villages who were exempted from paying toll for using the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway. Villagers allege that the highway concessionaire stopped issuing free tags to residents last August and, recently, the concessionaire has started discouraging free movement of even those with valid identity proofs.
Village leaders are now threatening to launch an agitation if the issue is not resolved soon.
They said there has been a spurt in skirmishes at the toll plaza because toll collectors refuse to show any leniency to vehicle owners from nearby areas despite them having valid papers.
Residents of 31 villages were given free tags from January 2015 following an agitation by locals seeking an exemption from paying the toll, as promised by the government.
After a meeting with Gurgaon police commissioner and other stakeholders, including village leaders, it was decided that free tags will be issued to villagers on the production of original documents. “After this meeting, from January 2015 to August 2015, free tags were issued,” said Satish Yadav, a resident of Manesar.
Villagers claim that the concessionaire, Millennium City Expressways Private Ltd (MCEPL), stopped issuing free tags after August saying that these were not available. Until last week, they were allowed to cross the plaza without paying the toll but not any more.
“There are daily arguments and fights at the toll plaza because the villagers are not being allowed to pass though. The people were made to understand by the government that this toll was free for them,” said Anu Gujjar, a resident of Begumpur Khatola.
There are around 800 vehicles in this village and the number increases every month as more and more people are buying cars and commercial vehicles.
In Badgujjar, the villagers are planning to meet elders from other villages and chalk up an agitation plan. “This time we are not going to ask for exemption but for removal of the toll plaza itself,” Jagat, a resident, said.
Manesar has around 1,500 vehicles and villagers said many of them bought new vehicles or got them as gifts in marriages. “The facility of free tags should be restarted immediately as for the last one week the toll staff is refusing to let us pass,” Jagat said.
Toll attendants, on condition of anonymity, admit that new tags are not being issued and that they have also been given instructions to be strict with “those claiming exemptions”.
S Raghuraman, CEO, MCEPL, said tags were issued twice every six months after the meeting with the district administration. “We have issued 8,000 free tags to vehicle owners in 31 villages. These tags cannot be issued on a daily basis,” he said.
The concessionaire also said any issues which the local residents s are facing could be solved after discussion.