Cricketer-turned-businessman Atul Wassan, a resident of Gurgaon for more than 16 years and a regular commuter on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway, is among the lakhs who experience daily travel horrors on the expressway despite paying the toll tax.
Wassan has missed numerous flights, TV show call times and engagements after getting stranded in long vehicular queues at Sirhaul toll plaza. “The residents of Gurgaon have now learnt to live with such delays,” said Wassan.
In July last year, the former pacer was roughed up by the aides of a Haryana minister for overtaking his convoy. As usual, there was no police personnel on duty even at 1am.
Another victim of Gurgaon’s road troubles, Shabnam Singh, mother of Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh and a resident of DLF City, is among those demanding the removal of the toll plazas. She was a victim of rude treatment by the toll plaza staffers in 2011.
“The authorities have failed to manage the ever-increasing traffic volume. I am a smart tag user but I see a number of non-tag cars straying into tag lanes and obstructing the way. In 2011, I had met the then Union road minister, CP Joshi, requesting him to remove the toll plaza. It is high time the government did that,” she said.
Widespread outrage against the toll plazas gave birth to a number of resident rights organisations, such as Toll Hatao Sangharsh Samiti (THSS), NH-8 Highway Welfare Association and others, in the satellite town. Besides holding protests at the toll plazas, the THSS also moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court, pleading for the removal of the plazas.
“We moved court even before the Haryana government did. The toll plazas must be moved out at least 10km away from the municipal area,” said RS Rathee, the vice-president of THSS.
With an average toll collection of about Rs 17 crore daily from all three toll plazas, including the lesser-known setup on the IGI loop, the concessionaire, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL), has collected a total amount of around R1,000 crore since 2008.
The expressway project, a crucial part of the Golden Quadrilateral connecting New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, was supposed to be the showcase highway project in the country.
A study published by Indian Railways Institute of Transport Management said, “NHAI relied on the traffic study conducted in 1998 at the time of project procurement. Thus, the actual traffic volume grossly outnumbered the projections from the very beginning of commercial operations. As soon as the expressway was opened to traffic, the unexpected high number of vehicles led to heavy queuing at the toll booths and delays in traversing the stretch.”