Thousands of commuters on the Delhi-Noida direct flyway didn’t have to pay toll on Thursday after operators opened the barriers following protests demanding such fees be scrapped on roads across the country.
Sources alleged authorities didn’t resist workers of the Bharat Kisan Union despite huge police presence and let vehicles pass unobstructed within minutes of the protest beginning around 11 am.
“We are demanding a toll-free India. Our movement has started today and it will continue indefinitely. We will not move from here until the toll charges on DND flyway are scrapped,” said Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait.
The protesters have threatened the sit-in will continue for at least the next month if the DND toll isn’t scrapped as the workers have enough supplies to last 40 days.
“Our last agitation to get toll charges scrapped in Lucknow lasted 41 days. To begin with, we have stocked groceries for 41 days that will be replenished if the agitation extends,” said Virender Chaudhary, a BKU volunteer.
The 9.2-km-long arterial road connects Delhi to Noida and east Delhi, and is used by around 125,000 vehicles on a weekday. On an average, the NTBCL collects around r25 lakhs daily as toll fees with cars paying Rs 28 and two wheelers coughing up Rs 12 per trip.
Such protests to discard the DND toll have gained ground in recent months as activists allege the commuters were being cheated by the concessionaire - Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL) – which had already made huge profits from the flyway.
On April 8, hundreds of BJP workers led by MLA Bimla Batham protested on the flyway and vandalised boom barriers to let 8,000 vehicles bypass the toll plaza. Later that month, around 500 volunteers of the Janhit Morcha forced the toll company to let nearly 25,000 vehicles pass without paying road fees.
Maulik Bharat, a non government organisation, also threatened last month that it would move the Delhi high court if toll charges were not withdrawn with immediate effect.
But NTBCL spokesperson Anwar A. Abbasi said he was waiting for the directions of the board of directors of the company. “Senior officials have been apprised of the situation,” he said. The company started collecting toll in February 2001. As per the concessionaire agreement, the toll is to be collected for 30 years.