Around 500 people gathered at the Noida DND toll plaza and forced open the boom barriers to allow free commute on the flyway on Sunday. They also set up a camp and declared an indefinite protest against toll collection.
The protest continued at the time of going to press. Around 20,000 vehicles are estimated to have crossed the toll plaza, sources said.
At 10.50am, the first group of protesters arrived at the toll plaza and lifted the boom barriers of all the 32 lanes on both sides, making passage free for commuters. Those who were using the flyway cheered the protesters as they did not have to stop or pay the toll of Rs28 for passage.
“I am lucky to avail this opportunity (free passage on the flyway). I called up my friend to know what was going on and came to know it was a protest against the toll on DND Flyway and for making passage free. We support the movement,” a commuter who was visiting Noida said.
On an average, nearly one lakh vehicles pass through the toll plaza daily. The toll management opened the barriers without argument or resistance, on orders from top executives, sources said.
The protesters were holding banners and shouting slogans against the DND toll and later camped for an indefinite strike near the administrative office building, with bhandara and music instruments. They also set up a stage for their leaders to address the gathering.
Around 100 police officers, including assistant superintendent of police (ASP) Gaurav Grover, were present. The additional district magistrate (ADM) Rajesh Yadav and city magistrate Bachchu Singh were also on the spot.
Around 4pm, the administration held a meeting with the protesters, appealing them to stop the protest. However, they refused to budge and submitted a memorandum to the officials.
“We want an audit probe into the DND account immediately and complete removal of the toll. We want concrete assurance from the DND management and the administration in this regard,” Nawab Singh Nagar, the convener of Janahit Morcha, which led the protest and roped in other groups, said. He is also a former member of legislative assembly.
Bachchu Singh said, “We have assured them of all possible help in this regard. We will take the matter up with the Uttar Pradesh government,” the city magistrate said.
A spokesperson for Noida Toll Bridge Company Limited (NTBCL), the concessionaire of DND Flyway, said, “The company has a legitimate concession agreement with the Noida authority for a period of 30 years and continues to abide by it. Demonstrations like these cause inconvenience to our genuine users. We will not comment further the issue is in the court.”
Residents, under the banner of the federation of Noida residents’ welfare associations (Fonrwa), had moved Allahabad high court in 2012 seeking termination of the agreement between Noida authority and NTBCL.
After 64 hearings, the residents, early this year, filed another petition demanding a stay on toll collection but to no avail. Residents also filed a special petition for the stay in Supreme Court, which on June 30 directed Allahabad high court to decide the matter by September-end.
“Hearing of the case is complete and the judgment can be pronounced any day this week,” Ranjeet Saxena, a lawyer for Fonrwa, said.
NTBCL set up the DND toll in 2001.