Soni Kumari was on her job as a toll collector guarding lane number 11 on the Kherki-Daula toll plaza as usual when at around 10.30 am on August 29, she had to suffer physical assault. Her only fault was that she asked for Rs 65 toll money from a man, who was driving an Alto, but who wanted to get an exemption by showing a fake ID Card to her. The 22-year-old, who deals with such men on a look-out to get exemption on a daily basis, spotted the fake ID card in a matter of a few seconds and tried to make him understand that he will have to pay the toll.

This is what happened

“I was just doing my duty and asked him for the toll tax like I usually ask for it from passengers but he gave me a fake ID. I recognised it and then he started to abuse me and asked me to call my senior which I did. My senior asked me to let him go because of the increased abuses and so as soon as I turned back to face him, he came near me and slapped me. I have suffered injuries on my right hand because of the physical assault,” Kumari, who hails from Benaras in Uttar Pradesh tells SheThePeople.TV.

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Fortunately, the Gurgaon Police arrived just in time to arrest the 23-year-old man in the case of manhandling and abusing the woman. The entire episode has been captured by a CCTV camera placed inside the toll booth and it clearly shows the girl facilitating the exchange but ends up getting beaten up when she calls out the fake ID. “I didn’t let him go that’s why he got caught, if I had been gentle with him he wouldn’t have got caught,” she says. Kumari has been working at a Toll Collector for two years now.

Woman Toll Collector
Soni Kumari talking to the commuter

Abuse-A General Occurance For Women At Kherki Daula Toll Plaza

Kumari tells us that this is not the first time that she has had to hear abuses like this but this is certainly the first time that somebody physically abused her. However, this is a normal occurrence at the toll plaza where very often toll collectors, who are all women, get roughed up by troublesome commuters who want to exempt toll tax. The last incident that was reported happened in June when in a similar incident, a girl manning lane 27 was confronted by a menacing commuter who punched her so hard that she bled from her nose.

“My helplessness does not allow me to leave the job and go back home. I cannot do anything but work in this job,”

No Luxury to leave the job

Kumari belongs to a financially modest family of one brother and her parent. She says that her brother, who is married has to fulfil his own family’s demands while her father, a farmer, remains sick. “My helplessness does not allow me to leave the job and go back home. I cannot do anything but work in this job,” she says. Kumari earns a sum of Rs 9500 per month for doing her duty. She keeps a paltry amount of Rs 1500 for herself and transfers the rest to her father to take care of the family back home. She joined this job through the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana—a skill development initiative scheme of the Government of India for recognition and standardisation of skills.

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The commuters she has to deal with

Out of all the people she has to deal with on a daily basis only about 10percent are good people, rest all are rowdy men who want to get away from paying the toll, she claims.

“Normal commuters aren’t the only ones who don’t want to pay the tax, a lot of the times the Delhi Police officers also show their ID card to get an exemption. But they are not allowed to pass freely, only the army officers are allowed. Police officers also abuse us when we ask or toll tax from them,” reveals Kumari. Like her, around 40 more girls are stationed at the Kherki-Daula toll Plaza notorious for such incidents. Kumari says that sometimes she feels like leaving this job but there is nothing she can do as back home there are no jobs for her to earn money from. “There are no jobs for men in Benaras, girls are miles away in the queue.”

Talking about fearing men, Kumari tells that her fear is gone. “I used to fear men when I was back home but after I stepped out to come and do this job, all my fears are gone. The one thing this job has taught me that there are all kinds of people in this world—worse than good,” she says adding that she doesn’t think about these incidents much otherwise but when it happens, it does shake her up and makes her question her life choices.

“If my family comes to know about it, they will be worried and won’t let me work. I cannot tell them about my working conditions”

Cannot tell the family about the abuse

About all of this that happened with her yesterday and the abuses that she has to deal with on a daily basis, her family knows nothing about it. “If my family comes to know about it, they will be worried and won’t let me work. I cannot tell them about my working conditions,” she says.

Kumari wants the government to take up this issue and do something about it. “We are doing the work of the government only, yet we have to go through the unnecessary hassle. They must increase our security as otherwise, everyone will start leaving this job.”

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