Noida residents force DND authorities to lift toll gates
“Nearly 1,000 people reached the plaza, forced open toll booths, allowing commuters a free ride. Despite the presence of police personnel, toll gates on both sides of the plaza were opened for six hours. Over 35,000 vehicles crossed the plaza without paying the toll tax, thereby, causing a loss of Rs 10 lakh to the toll authority. We started collecting toll tax only after the police detained some of the protesters,” said Anwar Abbasi, senior manager of the Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL), which is responsible to operate and maintain the DND Flyway.
Around 10 am, people under the aegis of the Noida Vikas Manch (NVM) called a maha-panchayat (public meet) at the flyway, demanding waiver of toll tax.
In over six-hour-long protest, the protesters demonstrated with Tricolours and raised slogans against the NTBCL, the Noida Authority and the Uttar Pradesh government for exploiting commuters using the flyway.
Around 4:30 pm, the police detained some of the protesters, after which the protest was called off. They were detained under Section-151 of the Indian Panel Code (IPC).
However, the protesters have threatened to lay siege over the DND Flyway and stage protests outside the residences of senior Noida Authority officials on October 26, if the <g data-gr-id="51">practise</g> of levying toll tax on commuters is not stopped.
“The DND Flyway was constructed at a cost of Rs 425 crore in 2001. The NTBCL, which operates it, has been recovering the cost for the past 14 years. As per the Concession Agreement, the company should transfer the project assets to the Noida Authority and the flyway should be made free for commuters. This is what we have been demanding for the past few years. We wanted to meet the director of the DND Flyway, but he was not available. The authorities concerned should allow at least free passage to the residents of Gautam Budh. The Gurgaon Expressway toll, which started after the DND Flyway toll, has been lifted, but the one in Noida still continues,” said Joginder Singh Awana, president of the Noida Vikas Manch.
The protesters were also demanding panchayat elections in the district and roll-back of the decision on building bylaws and map policy imposed by the Noida Authority for 81 villages of Noida. The Noida Authority is working on <g data-gr-id="39">revision</g> of its building bylaws to bring <g data-gr-id="37">abadi</g> land in villages under its purview. “We will continue our agitation if the demands are not met,” Awana said.
Meanwhile, commuters also faced bottlenecks as traffic had to be diverted following the protest. “It normally takes me 30 minutes to reach Noida from Green Park, but today it took me nearly two hours. All bus routes were diverted because of the demonstration,” Sumit Khanna, an executive with a private firm. Another commuter, Abhishek Kumar, a resident of South Delhi’s Ashram area, said it took him around 50 minutes to reach office in Noida Sector 18 compared to 15 minutes that it takes every day.