I, Lijo Cheeran Jose working with Mylan Laboratories Ltd, Bangalore, used to travel every week by road to Kochi from Bengaluru and back. On March 31, 2019, we reached the Toll Plaza around 7.25 PM. Since our car was fast-tag enabled, we approached to enter to the fast-tag lane. But there were two plastic drums and other plastic barricades blocking the main entrance of that lane.
One of the employees ensured the availability of fast-tag in our vehicle and moved these blocked barricades and allowed us to enter. But soon it was closed with another barrier.
Two of the employees close to the plastic drum then motioned to us to turn the vehicle to the right side lane. We opened our side window glass and asked why we needed to turn? They replied our tag is invalid and we have to turn and go through the regular lane.
We told them that the same vehicle passed this toll without any issue and asked them to check once again properly.
But they refused to hear us and insisted that we should turn the vehicle and go by the normal lane. They have also received a message in walkie-talkie to tell the customer to turn and go. We then turned off the vehicle and came out.
After a few minutes, another staff came to the spot and spoke with us. According to him the sensor fixed in the entry of the lane is not reading the vehicle tag, and he cannot allow the vehicle to pass through the fast-tag lane.
We told him we are frequent travellers and observed that such problem occurs at many toll booths. In other places, the authorities will use a portable sensor to read the RFID tag on the vehicle and allow them to proceed. But he rudely said that we could not use the fast-tag lane and we should get into normal lanes. We have repeated the practice of the use of portable sensor devices in all NHAI tolls in such situations to allow vehicles stuck in the fast-tag lane for clearing them in few minutes. Asked why such service is lacking here, he said if you are not shifting to the normal lane, they will call the police.
We then said we would welcome and in case of our tag having any complaint such as insufficient balance, invalid tag or any other damage we will accept the order to turn back and proceed through the normal lane. But we insisted that we needed to have proof otherwise we will not move from the fast-tag lane.
The staff then started threatening us with a case against us. Other passengers with fast-tag lane meanwhile told us about the similar kind of ordeal suffered by them at the hands of the unruly staff in this toll plaza. We also captured the video on our mobile.
After 45 minutes, the same staff came back along with another operator with a hand-held sensor. Maybe by that time, they must have received a message that tag is valid. After grumbling about our shooting the entire incident, hurriedly removed the barriers for us to pass and we got the acknowledgement of toll deduction. The next NHAI toll near Walayar was without any disruption.
The fast-tag system was to avoid delay in toll booths and ensure better fuel efficiency, etc. We lost more than an hour in Paliyekkara due to the petulance of the staff in the Toll Plaza....