Scores of farmers were detained on Thursday for blocking traffic on the newly-inaugurated Greater Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway. The agitating farmers were demanding tax exemption for the villagers living along the 165-km toll road.
The protesting farmers, under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), were later released by the police.
"Farmers stopped traffic at the expressway's zero-point for only a few minutes. They were detained and sent to the police lines. We later let them off. Traffic moved smoothly thereafter," said superintendent of police (rural) Ashok Kumar.
Protesters claimed they were assured that no toll would be levied on farmers and villagers living along the expressway during the land acquisition process.
However, the developer, Jaypee Infratech, has repeatedly denied these claims.
"Even our family members have to pay toll," said Sameer Gaur, joint managing director of the realty firm.
Raising slogans against the government and the builder, the farmers staged a sit-in at the expressway for over an hour before the cops whisked them away.
The cops said they asked the farmers to clear the road, but they refused to budge. "Since traffic was to be cleared, we had to arrest the agitators," said a police officer.
Thursday was the first day of toll collection after a six-day tax exemption was announced by Jaypee Group after the inauguration of the expressway on August 9.
The villagers have been demanding waiving of fee across the three toll points that dot the expressway. A car has to pay Rs. 320 for a one-way trip and Rs. 510 for a round trip. If a commuter undertakes 20 or more trips in a month, each single journey will cost Rs. 255.
BKU farmers have been holding protests at the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) office since July 30.
"As the authority officers took our agitation lightly, we blocked the traffic. Farmers had given three days' time to the officers for negotiations and had suspended the agitation till then," said Ajay Pal Sharma of BKU.
BKU leaders said they would not halt their agitation till the time they got a toll waiver.
"Such an exemption is allowed on other toll roads, so why is the same policy not followed in our case?" asked an angry villager.