Delhi Police are feeling the heat over the traffic chaos that erupted on Thursday on the National Highway 8, which left hundreds of commuters stranded for many hours on the arterial road connecting Delhi and Gurugram. Delhi Police put up makeshift barricades on one side of the stretch from Gurugram to Delhi at Rajokari border on Delhi-Gurugram expressway and just one lane was open to physically check each and every vehicle coming in.
According to daily commuters, if the police had to place restrictions on the movement of traffic then it could have simply publicised it through newspapers and radio stations. This could have allowed the general public to choose alternative routes or modes of transport to reach their destinations, instead police inaction squeezed out these alternatives.
According to M.S. Randhawa, Delhi Police PRO, the force received intelligence on planned protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act early this morning and it did not have ample time to undertake publicity measures informing people about the barricading and traffic restrictions on the Delhi-Gurugram border.
Delhi traffic police said the barricades were put in place at around 5 a.m. on the Delhi-Gurugram border. Due to this, heavy vehicles were also stuck leading to a massive traffic jam of upto 8 to 10 kms.
At one point, the traffic pile-up reached till Sector 15 flyover in Gurugram side. Many commuters said they came to a standstill for two hours between 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. After 11 a.m., Delhi Police opened two more lanes to ease the chaos which did not help either till 2 p.m. The traffic on this stretch normalised only after barricades were removed by the police around 4 p.m.
Gurugram DCP (Traffic) Himanshu Garg blamed the Delhi Police for not alerting the public about the barricading on the expressway in time.
"We learnt about the traffic snarls from cops of Udyog Vihar and DLF phase-2 police stations. If Delhi Police had alerted us in time, we would have several options to divert traffic to other routes like Kundli Maneser Palwal expressway, MG road, Delhi Faridabad expressway to go toward Mehrauli," Garg said.
The situation worsened after commuters stuck in the jam tried to enter the service lanes that caused a gridlock under Iffco Chowk, Shankar Chowk, Rajokari and Mahipalpur flyovers. It also affected several adjoining roads, such as Mehrauli Gurugram road, Old Delhi road via Kapashera, Link road, Chattarpur, Vasant Kunj, and Mahipalpur.
Mohit Tandon, a senior official at a multinational firm at Gurgaon, said "It seemed hundreds of cars were bundled up on the road. It was sheer chaos, and I spent close to three hours to reach my office in Cyber Hub. The police could have informed us through FM radio and I would have hopped on to the Metro."
Videos of the traffic jam on the highway went viral on social media platforms. For many commuters, the traffic jam was worse than a nightmare as cars were stuck bumper-to-bumper.
"It was not possible to park my car at a safe place and hop on a taxi to my workplace. Everyday thousands commute back and forth between Delhi and Gurugram, a simple message from the police would have saved the public from this horror," said Mohit Gupta, an employee at a textile firm at Udyog Vihar in Gurugram.
Many commuters also blamed the police for not swinging into action to help people stranded on roads in the massive traffic jam on the highway.
"The police could clearly see there was a huge traffic jam on the road, but it did not do anything to aid people who were stuck. Imagine getting stuck in traffic for more than three hours and being left with nowhere to go," said Manu Sabharwal who works for an international NGO in Gurugram.
Arun Suri, a resident of Bengaluru who landed at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) at 7 a.m., said: "I was unaware of the traffic jam when I landed in Delhi. I took a cab to go to Connaught Place for some work. When I reached Mahipalpur, my cab was stuck in the jam. Eventually, I decided to stay for the day in a hotel at Mahipalpur."
Besides, many other air travellers stayed for 7 to 8 hours inside the airport lounge hoping that the traffic situation may normalise in the city.
"My office allowed employees especially women to go home early. Panic was created after employees spoke to families and friends back home. We learnt about 20 stations of Delhi Metro were shut. Such information points to something ugly happening at those places," said Saroj Mehta, an MNC worker in Cyber City.
Another commuter, Rohit Singh, who is an employee of a travel agency in Sohna Road, said: "When news flashed on TV channels and social media platforms about section 144, closures of large number of metro stations, and traffic gridlock on key roads, I left my car inside the office and took the Metro to reach home early. My house is in Shaheen Bagh area and we have witnessed police lathicharge, stone pelting and arson in Jamia on Sunday."