Rishi Kant Pandey of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh lost his youngest brother Umesh shortly after midnight on September 22, 2011 as he was shot dead by a drunk driver at the Kherki Daula toll booth on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway.
The newly married Umesh, who was the sole bread winner of a poor family of seven that includes a handicapped brother, was gunned down because he had asked the driver for toll.
“He died and we lost everything we had. How am I to take care of our old parents as I am unemployed and the other brother handicapped?” asked Rishi.
This wasn’t an isolated event of flowing adrenaline as fistfights and commuter-staffer tiffs at the two toll plazas are quite common — the better known cases are that of cricketer-turned-businessman Atul Wassan being roughed up by cohorts of an ex-minister of Haryana in July last year and toll staffers misbehaving with cricketer Yuvraj Singh’s mother in 2011.
This lawlessness on the expressway is despite a state support agreement that operator Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL) had signed with the governments of Haryana and Delhi.
“The toll plazas are a nuisance to the smooth flow of traffic. They have been a cause of anger and annoyance to the people,” said deputy commissioner of police (traffic) Bharti Arora.
“The concessionaire needs to pay us the outstanding amount running into crores under the state support agreement before we can provide any additional force to it,” she added.
A spokesperson of DGSCL said, “Traffic police have been deployed on the expressway as part of execution of routine duty and not been specifically deployed in pursuance of the state support agreement. So there is no question of payment. The matter is in the court.”
Another reason cited by the police as well as residents for the increase of mishaps on the expressway is inadequate expansion of the toll plazas.
As Gurgaon is functioning on a skeletal infrastructure of traffic cops and police in general, the expressway becomes just one of the many other problems to be tackled.
“We do launch periodic drives to chastise offending drivers, but we do not have the manpower to enforce traffic rules on the expressway. Also, it becomes very dangerous for traffic cops to man the expressway in the absence of leeways,” said Arora.
Even the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials argue that their institution is not responsible for maintaining order on the expressway; they say it is the duty of the traffic police.
The traffic police have time and again retorted that the NHAI should see to it that service lanes as well as the entry and exit points to the main carriageway are repaired and widened to reduce the commotion and rein in tempers.
The NHAI has maintained that DGSCL is the one to blame, while DGSCL has denied any liability saying the matter is sub-judice.