In 2014, residents of around 12 villages in and around Kherki Daula toll plaza on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding its removal. Toll rate was doubled after the removal of Sirhaul toll plaza, heavy congestion, frequent accidents and lack of adequate underpasses had led the villagers putting forward their demand. However, the opposition to the toll plaza has further increased in the last two years as residents of 31 villages, who were given assurance of exemption from paying toll, find themselves cornered.
Around 8,000 free tags were issued by the highways authority after locals protested against the toll plaza. But those who could not get the free tag have to either show multiple documents or pay for their travel. “I recall writing a letter to the union government. It is because of the consistent efforts of people like us that the matter has been taken up at the highest levels. The Gurgaon MP has discussed the issue with the Union transport minister. It has been accepted by all that this toll has to be removed,” said Vimal Yadav, Gurgaon mayor. He also said that Gurgaon has been choked by toll plazas on all sides whether it is Gurgaon-Faridabad, KMP, Pataudi Road or Sohna.
A number of farmers from rural Gurgaon, who visit the mandi every day with their produce from Rewari, Farrukhnagar, and other adjoining areas using complain that they don’t get the right money for their produce. Rao Man Singh, a progressive farmer from Farrukhnagar says that vehicles carrying milk, vegetables and other perishables remain stuck at the toll plaza. “It is a waste of our time and increases the cost of production,” said Singh.
As far as local villagers are concerned, they demand that either free tags should again be introduced by the highway concessionaire or the toll plaza be shifted. They also say that regular brawls and quarrels happen at the toll plaza because the toll collectors don’t respect their right of exemption and often mock them. “These fights are not one-sided. The other party is also wrong sometimes which is why the innocent villager is provoked. Also, what is the problem in accepting a single document to give exemption,” said Virender Singh, member of the zila parishad, Gurgaon.
“Another issue is the fact that because of the urbanisation, there is more than one car in a household. While one car may have the tag, there are three in a family that don’t and this leads to fights and protests when toll collectors press for payment and villagers refuse,” said Dilip Yadav, a resident of Kherki Daula.
Referring to a recent fight that led to an FIR against a local leader, Singh said the toll collector also used wrong words. “The staff needs to show some respect to the villagers as their lives have been partitioned by this expressway,” he said.
Mayor Yadav said that his party is committed to the removal of the toll plaza. During the recent Pataudi rally, the Gurgaon MP had said that either the toll will be shifted or 75% exemption would be given to locals crossing it.
The highway officials, meanwhile, said that they had issued free tags to villagers after consulting with the local administration. “The issue is not of exemption but the use of fake documents by people who try to claim free passage. Those with valid documents have no problems,” said TC Rao, CMD, Skylark, the highway operator.