One of the busiest industrial areas of Gurgaon, Udyog Vihar houses offices of the who’s who of domestic and international business. But there’s one giant hurdle before the hub can boast of being the most sought-after place to work in: Sirhaul toll plaza.
The barrier, besides being physical, also acts as a psychological impediment to the well-being of those who have to commute to Udyog Vihar regularly.
“Even before starting from home, people are gripped by a fear of getting stuck at the Sirhaul toll plaza. I used to stay in Rohini but had to shift to Vasant Kunj to make it to office in time,” said Rajiv Puri, vice-president of Munjal Showa Ltd.
“My executives and employees get worn out at the toll even before reaching office. The frustration gets reflected in their behaviour in office and their treatment of subordinates,” said BS Dagar, general manager (HR), Relaxo Footwears Ltd.
Dagar, who is also the chairman of National Human Resources Development Forum, added, “The mental health of my executives is suffering due to the toll plaza. It is also affecting their personal lives as the family members become the target of the same anger at home. If the toll plazas are removed, their efficiency is bound to go up by at least 40%.”
Executives also complain that non-tag users add to the problem. “Most of the daily commuters use smart tags, but are sometimes unable to get a smooth passage through tag lanes as cash users unlawfully use them,” said a spokesperson of expressway operator DGSCL.
But, Aseem Takyar, an RTI activist and also the owner of Jintak Engineers Ltd in Udyog Vihar, says, “Through an RTI application I came to know that only 1.42 lakh tags have been issued by the operator, out of which 18,000 don’t work.”
“To facilitate the exit of commuters from Udyog Vihar we had set up a separate toll plaza so that they can directly come on to the highway through this route without going back to the main plaza,” said the spokesperson.
The regulars at Udyog Vihar, however, share a different story. “The extra lanes that have been added while on the way out of Udyog Vihar have also not helped. Only one is functional,” said Omi Wadhwa of Swift Corporation.
The plight of the white-collar executives of Udyog Vihar, meanwhile, remains unchanged as the Sirhaul toll plaza is gradually becoming an unavoidable factor in their professional and personal lives.
Leave it to public if you can’t manage: Col (retd) Raj Singla
The two toll plazas — one at Sirhaul and the other at Kherki Daula — have become commuters’ nightmare, defeating the very purpose of the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway.
The operator, DGSCL, seems to have rendered the National Highways Authority of India, the state government, the Centre and even the judiciary apparently helpless. People continue to suffer while clauses and conditions of the contracted agreement enable matters to linger on in different courts of law.
Perhaps the operator company knows that it would be able to buy considerable time by shifting litigations from one court to the next. Meanwhile, the plight of the people continues to be of no importance to anyone.
In the face of protests by Gurgaon residents, the traffic police intervened but they soon gave up as petitions were filed by the operator in Punjab and Haryana high court. Even the high court’s efforts to streamline traffic and discipline the operator failed. And now the matter drags on in Delhi high court.
The expressway was created on an existing road used by commuters. It has impinged upon the citizens’ rights by not providing toll-free service roads for those who do not want to pay toll.
Lakhs of commuters have to face congestion at the toll plaza every day during office hours. Cab drivers have to drive at a perilous high speed to be able to make it to their destinations in time as they know that it would take over an hour for them to be able to pass the toll barrier.
Under the banner of Toll Hatao Sangharsh Samiti, numerous protests were held and people of Gurgaon came out on the streets in large numbers. Toll plazas were mobbed and daylong dharnas and slogan-shouting carried on for many days. Unfortunately, still there has not been any outcome. Everyone understands the seriousness of the problem, but none in the senior-most levels of authority is able to help, other than give promises and assurances.
Public interest can now be looked after by the people themselves. Sooner we understand this, the better it is. And the only solution is complete removal of both the toll plazas.
(Col (retd) Raj Singla, patron and former president, Chamber of Industries of Udyog Vihar)