Number of commuters paying double toll as penalty at Kherki Daula toll plaza grows by 500% in two weeksUpdated: Jan 17, 2020 21:12 IST
The number of commuters who are paying double the toll amount as a penalty at the Kherki Daula toll plaza has grown by 500% since January 1, according to officials. The number of commuters who paid double the toll amount as a penalty at the toll plaza was 659 on January 1, which shot up to 3,976 on January 16. Since December 15, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had made it mandatory for commuters to pay double the toll amount as a penalty if they entered the FASTag lanes and paid cash.
Several commuters who entered FASTag lanes without a tag on Friday claimed that saving time was more important to them than saving money. Commuters who went through the FASTag lanes and paid ₹130 instead of ₹65, said cash lanes were choked so they had no option but to pay more.
Monu Ranjan, who works in Manesar, said, “FASTag lanes, especially the canopy ones, are empty, so I always go through them. Time is more important to me than money.”
There are some residents of new sectors who said that paying more was fine, but even FASTag lanes were crowded.
Minakshi Yadav, resident, Sector 84, said, “I have been paying double the amount as I have seen that electronic toll collection at Kherki Daula toll plaza is not working. Most times, toll plaza operators are running around with hand-held devices trying to scan FASTags. Once the authorities get a system in place wherein vehicles can move smoothly, I will get the tag.”
Before January 8, there were 19 FASTag lanes and six cash lanes; after January 8, the NHAI has implemented 21 FASTag lanes and four cash lanes at the Kherki Daula toll plaza. The NHAI has instructed toll plaza officials that if there is a traffic jam beyond 20 minutes then one more cash lane on both sides must be added to supplement the others.
The number of penalty payers rose suddenly from 202 on January 7 to 2,593 on January 8 as the toll plaza officials started to strictly take double the toll amount as a penalty from commuters. On January 5, Amarendra Kumar, chief general manager, NHAI, wrote to all regional offices asking them to “charge double the fees for non FASTag vehicles entering FASTag lanes and this should be strictly imposed (sic),” read the letter. After that, the toll plaza officials received a call from the NHAI, Gurugram, asking them to charge anyone who entered the FASTag lanes and paid cash.
Mohan Soni, who works in Manesar, said, “I bought a FASTag via Paytm for ₹500 and received ₹300 in my account. I don’t know what happened to the remaining ₹200.” So, he decided not to use that FASTag.
However, the e-wallet officials denied there was anything wrong with their system.
Ajay Garg, associate vice president, Paytm, said, “We are taking ₹250 from anyone who buys a FASTag through a kiosk. Rupees 150 is kept as balance amount with the commuter and ₹100 is the tag price. There is no one-time security deposit that we take.” As for the person who paid ₹500 to get a FASTag through Paytm, Garg said that he must have bought two FASTags.
Some said they feared that linking their bank accounts with FASTags was not safe due to rampant cybersecurity fraud. “The FASTag is linked to your bank account—I don’t know how strong our cybersecurity is to handle fraud. To keep my account safe from cyber predators, I have not taken a FASTag,” Praveen Malik, vice-president, United Association of New Gurugram, a group of New Gurugram residents, said.
Officials of the Millennium City Expressway Private Limited (MCEPL), the concessionaire of the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, said that the number of commuters who end up fighting and not paying double the toll amount as a penalty is around 10,000 daily, and these numbers are not counted anywhere. Tollbooth operators have been given clear instructions not to get into fights with commuters. Anish John, systems manager, MCEPL, said, “There are several commuters who enter the FASTag lanes and end up fighting with the toll operators. To reduce the number of fights, toll operators only take ₹65 from them.”
Even the sale of FASTags at the Kherki Daula plaza has gone downhill. On an average, around 100-150 tags are being sold at the plaza. “Commuters are not buying FASTags—they are simply not showing the enthusiasm to get these tags,” John said. On Friday, there were hardly 10 commuters in line to buy FASTags; even the sale counters were empty.
Meanwhile, the NHAI’s independent consultant (IC) has written to the NHAI, Gurugram, asking them to allow the MCEPL to keep 19 FASTag lanes and six cash lanes as against the present 21 FASTag lanes and four cash lanes at Kherki Daula toll plaza. The recommendation will now go to the NHAI headquarters for approval.
The IC has mentioned in the letter that one split lane is being used as a FASTag lane and this is causing congestion as there is hardly any space for commuters to move around at the toll plaza. “Traffic is now passing through 21 lanes (19 FASTag lanes and two cash lanes on each side). The FASTag trial is being done with this arrangement. If other two split lanes are used for FASTag vehicles it would create chaos and traffic jam at the toll plaza (sic),” read the letter.