Do you drive a car with commercial plates and want to save some money while crossing an MCD toll booth? There is a way if you have the will to bend the rules.
A sting operation by Mail Today found that civic workers at DND, Mayur Vihar and Kalindi Kunj are allowing cab drivers to enter the national Capital by taking bribes and letting the vehicles go without a receipt from the corporation which goes to polls this month.
Apart from kickbacks, drivers in India often use threats, violence, protests and claims of powerful connections to demand toll exemptions.
Around 10.40pm on Monday, a Mail Today correspondent posing as a transporter running 15 cabs and looking to dodge the tariff approached the Municipal Corporation of Delhi staff at the Mayur Vihar toll plaza.
The operator suggested she ask the driver to pay a bribe of Rs 50 instead of taking MCD challan of Rs 100 that is valid only for a single visit. Else, the driver would have to get a Rs 3,000 pass that is valid for a month.
"Ma'am, if you pay the bribe, you won't get the challan slip but you will be allowed to enter Delhi. However, in case someone stops you, you will be held responsible," he said.
'BRIBING IS A COMMON PRACTICE'
When the reporter asked some cab drivers about how they manage daily entry, many of them said that they get a monthly pass. However, others admitted to bribing the MCD staff.
Another operator at the Mayur Vihar plaza said, "We are under CCTV surveillance so we cannot take the bribe easily. However, bribing is a common practice at other toll plazas like at DND and Kalindi Kunj."
We reached the Delhi Noida Direct flyway at around 11.30 pm. The toll booth here has been placed in the middle of the thoroughfare, putting motorists' lives at risk.
Also, it leads to frequent traffic snarls. The moment a vehicle crosses the main toll booth in Noida and picks up speed, it runs into the MCD toll booth and often the person behind the wheel loses control over the vehicle.
When the undercover reporter tried to talk to the attendants, they refused to take bribes. However, many truck drivers were caught on camera with Rs 100 notes in their hands when the toll is Rs 500.
One of them said: "Dekhna, main issi se kaam chalunga (Just watch, I'll make do with this)." He didn't pay the Rs 500 tax for his truck's entry into Delhi and bribed the attendant to get through.
A DND staffer on duty suggested the reporter to ally with one of the attendants who would fix the kickback amount and let the cabs go.
Apart from the traffic snarls and the corrupt practices at the MCD toll plaza at DND, there was another critical problem. Officials from the transport department's special branch were patrolling with a torch to check the documents of truck drivers. They risk lives in the dark by coming in front of the speeding vehicles to stop and inspect papers.
AT KALINDI KUNJ
The reporter then reached the MCD toll plaza at Kalindi Kunj around 12.20 am, still posing the owner of 15 cabs who is starting out in the business. The toll incharge sitting outside the booth first suggested that the correspondent not try to bend the rules and instead buy a monthly pass.
However, when the reporter stressed on bribing Rs 50 per visit, he agreed to it, adding: "It's risky and if your driver is caught he may have to pay a heavy challan to the transport department officials."
The vendor of the toll plaza at Kalindi Kunj told the reporter that if his attendants allow any commercial vehicle to pass with bribe, then the operator suffers a loss. So they have to keep a tight vigil on illegal practices.
The municipal corporation has given the toll plaza to the vendors for three years via open bidding and doesn't delve into their management.
"There are around 137 toll plazas in the city connecting other parts of NCR. Every day, revenue of around Rs 1.5 crore is generated from Delhi and the vendors are supposed to deposit the amount on weekly basis. If they come on the defaulter list, the amount from the security deposit is deducted," an official requesting anonymity said.
Traffic congestion is another upshot of the MCD toll plazas. Mail Today visited the one on Delhi-Gurugram expressway at Shirhaul border and found that negotiating the stretch at peak hours is a challenge for motorists.
"The employees of toll plaza used to stand in the middle of the road to keep an eye on vehicles with commercial number plates. They sometimes jumped in front of high-speed vehicles to stop them," said Neeraj Bhardwaj, a senior executive of a BPO company in Gurugram who uses the route frequently.
The Shirhaul plaza has six main toll lanes and two to three split ones while vehicles are moving from Gurugram to Delhi. They have put cylindrical containers in the middle of the road and once a commercial vehicle driver gets a ticket, it is cross-checked by an employee standing 10 metres away in the same lane.
The stoppage of vehicles twice in quick succession slows down traffic. "If some hurdle suddenly appears on the stretch, it will end lead to a pileup with great risk to human life. As the normal toll plaza was shifted some two years ago from this place, the MCD toll should also be shifted to somewhere in public interest," said another commuter, Sunil Malhotra.
Ramesh Kumar, a toll employee, told Mail Today that they put drums in front of commercial vehicles if they refuse to pay toll at the booths. The operator has also deployed two SUVs that chase down tax dodging vehicles. If an offender is caught by the flying squad, he is made to pay six times the actual toll as fine.