Lucknow, Aug 16: Hundreds of farmers supported by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) activists staged a sit-in at the Greater Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway Thursday and blocked traffic, demanding a toll tax exemption for the villagers living along the 165-km road.
The protestors claimed that during the acquisition of land for the project, they were assured by the developers that no toll would be levied on farmers and villagers living along the expressway.
Raising slogans against the government and the developers Jaypee Infratech, the agitating farmers sat on the expressway at Greater Noida for over an hour after which the police arrested them and whisked them away.
Police said they tried to pacify the farmers but they refused to budge and since traffic jam was to be cleared, they had to arrest the agitators.
Thursday was the first day after a six-day toll tax holiday, announced by Jaypee Group executive chairman Manoj Gaur on Aug 9, soon after the inauguration of the expressway and the villagers were insisting on travelling free across the three toll points that dot the expressway.
The BKU leaders said they would not rest until they get a toll tax waiver and threatened a bigger agitation in the coming days.
“On other toll roads this has been the rule, so why is it not being followed here?” asked a villager and pointed out that last week they had given representations to the developers and the Noida authority on the same issue but in vain.
Following the agitation the developers have increased the presence of security personnel, while the local police have been directed to “be around to stop any mischief”, an official said.
Parasnath Yadav, a senior minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government of Uttar Pradesh, while expressing sympathy for the farmers and villagers, said blocking traffic was not a “good thing to do”.
He said Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was himself monitoring the project and the matter would be taken up in the cabinet soon. Jaypee Infratech, the developers of the expressway connecting Greater Noida with Agra had Aug 9 said there would be no toll-tax till Aug 15.
The expressway, which promises to reduce travel time between New Delhi and Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, by nearly half at two-and-a-half hours, was formally inaugurated through video conference from here Thursday by Akhilesh Yadav.
The state government has approved a toll tax of Rs.2.10 a km for cars. The state government has notified the toll based on the recommendation of the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority at Rs 2.10 a km for cars and jeeps, Rs.6.60 a km for buses and trucks, Rs.3.23 a km for minis and Rs.10.10 a km for heavy vehicles.