UNTIL Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced suspension of toll collection on national highways, collection centres across highways saw long queues as operators struggled to return smaller cash for Rs 500 and 1,000 notes.
“Our operators ran out of change by the morning, and this led to further issues because people insisted on paying with the scrapped notes, leading to arguments and delays.” said TC Rao, chief managing director of Skylark, the company that manages the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway. Officials said there were “two- or three-kilometre” lines at the booth through Wednesday, and traffic barriers had to be lifted every 15 or 20 minutes.
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Naresh Kumar of Gurgaon, who was on his way to Jaipur for a wedding, said he spent 25 minutes waiting to go through the toll.
At the Jewar toll plaza on the Yamuna Expressway, an official said, “Earlier, it took less than a minute to let each car through. Today, each car took around two minutes because people had Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes they wanted to get rid of.”
At the Pundag Toll Plaza on NH-33 near Ranchi, Gopal Mahato’s vehicle blocked the traffic in his lane as he haggled with operators. “They are duty-bound to pay us the exact change. They should have made arrangements. When there is a bank holiday on Sunday, how do they manage?” he said.
R S Verma from Gaya shouted behind him. His family was scheduled to catch the Ranchi Rajdhani Express to Delhi from Ranchi. “Either they should give us change or allow us to go; they have to choose one option,” said Verma.
Toll booth staff said that they tried to help people as much as possible. “But after the announcement last night, I have not seen one commuter giving me a Rs 100 note,” one attedant said.
In Maharashtra, queues formed at Pune-Mumbai Expressway, Mumbai-Bangalore Highway and Pune-Nashik Highway. “Toll booths on highways around Pune continued accepting these notes but as people started paying only in those notes at all centres, it led to a shortage of Rs 100 and Rs 50 notes after some time. This led to long queues,” said a highway police official.