Toll booth attack raises safety concerns

Toll booth attack raises safety concerns

By AREEBA FALAK | NEW DELHI | 5 March, 2016
The security of toll-tax collectors as well as the money collected as tax is in question after a failed attempt of robbery at the staff quarters of MCD toll tax in Badarpur resulted in the death of a guard and a cashier.
On the morning of 28 February, four armed robbers attacked the staff quarters, a few metres away from Badarpur toll tax booths. “There were at least 8-10 toll tax employees present in the building at the time of the attack. The assailants locked from the outside one of the doors of the room where the men were lounging. The only two men left outside the room were the cashier and the guard who were killed by the armed men. Since the employees were trapped unawares, none of them could understand what was really happening until they heard the firing,” said a police source.
Around two days of toll tax, amounting to Rs 60-62 lakh, was present in the building at the time of the attempted robbery. “The money was kept in a separate room which the assailants probably didn’t know about. The locals raised an alarm after hearing the gunshots, which is why the robbers departed instead of looking for the money,” said police sources. There were no witnesses who saw the robbers entering or leaving the building.
“This is the first of its kind attack at an MCD toll tax facility. Generally, the transaction and transfer of money from toll tax booths is done without hassles. But this has nothing to do with the MCD. Collection of toll tax is a tedious task that MCD cannot do all by itself without proper workforce and resources, which is why it is more convenient to outsource it. MCD gives the tender to a private company that is liable to make payments to MCD as scheduled. The safety of the toll booth is not SDMC’s responsibility. All such incidents are to be handled by the private company. Generally, all the cash collected is picked up by a bank vehicle and deposited in the bank in due intervals,” said an SDMC employee on condition of anonymity. The current private concessionaire was appointed in February at a minimum reserve price of Rs 488 crore for a period of nine months.
Ever since the incident, two boys who lived in a room nearby the crime scene are said to be missing and are possible suspects. The police are working on several angles, one that includes personal rivalry. The cashier, Manmohan Singh Sharma (60), from Rajasthan, and the guard, Mahipal (40), who were killed, had joined the private cash collection agency nearly two months ago. There is a possibility that the failed robbery attempt was made by a gang that has roots in Rajasthan and this angle is being inquired. A few days before the incident, the slain toll tax employees had an argument with two students who were preparing for competitive exams in a coaching centre nearby. Sources in the police said that the chances of the students’ involvement are being looked into. Four teams across various states have been sent to look for suspects.

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