Police say they have solved the murder of 22-year-old Gurgaon toll booth attendant Umesh Kumar Pandey, with the arrest of two men early on Monday morning.
CCTV footage led to the arrest of the suspected killer, Vijayvir, and his friend, Manjit; the police claimed that the two men had confessed to killing Pandey.
The toll booth attendant was shot dead at 12.30 am at the toll plaza in Kheri Daula in Gurgaon on Friday. Umesh was seated in booth number 11 at the toll plaza when a Bolero car pulled up. Soon, an argument broke out between him and the occupants of the car. Moments later, he was dead. He had been shot at close range with the bullet piercing his neck. The CCTV camera showed him grabbing his neck and then collapsing to the ground.
The trigger for the horrific, brazen killing was over paying Rs 27 as toll tax. Police said Vijayvir (28), who was driving the Bolero and who was allegedly drunk, had got into a squabble with the toll booth attendant - he demanded that he be allowed through without paying as he lived in a village close to the booth and was thus exempt from paying toll tax. The police said that Vijayvir showed Pandey his driving licence and had been allowed to pass through when there was an exchange of words and he allegedly shot the attendant and sped away.
A clear still shot of the Bolero car was the first clue that the police had. But about 45 minutes after the shooting, police said, Vijayvir sent his friend Manjit (24) to check on Pandey. That visit was caught clearly on CCTV. Manjit made enquiries with another attendant on whether Pandey was merely injured or had died. That footage led the police to arrest both men.
"Around 41 teams had been constituted in Gurgaon to get information about the car. Vijayvir was driving a Bolero. It was his friend's car. We just had a clue of the vehicle, but no idea about its license plate. He changed the accessories of the car in order to evade arrest and dodge the police. The accessories helped us track him. After the incident, he came back to Sector 14 in Gurgaon and slept in the car," Gurgaon Commissioner of Police S S Deswal said today. He added that the murder weapon was illegal and is still to be recovered.
Umesh was the only earning member of his family. His parents live in Rewa in Madhya Pradesh with their two sons, who are physically and mentally challenged. The family was hence entirely dependent on Umesh.
Umesh's father, Rajkumar Pandey, 72 , is devastated by his son's death. He recalls how he raised money for his education by toiling tirelessly in paddy fields. Umesh's death, he says, has robbed him of his only hope of survival.
Umesh's mother, Ramrati Pandey, is inconsolable. "Our son used to help us a lot. He had opened an account for us and used to send us money. I, my husband and my physically and mentally challenged sons would survive on that. Now that he has, gone our source for survival too has gone," she said, sitting in a corner of her house, holding Umesh's photograph close to her.
Helpless and still battling grief, his family members says they want justice in the form of strictest punishment for those who killed Umesh.
The Kheri Daula toll booth is located at the Gurgaon-Manesar border. People like Vijayvir and Manjit, who live in about 20 villages close to the area, have been exempted from paying toll. All that the drivers need to do is show their ID card to establish that they live nearby and they are allowed to pass through without any charge.
Toll collectors say that threats over non-payment of toll tax are not new, especially from locals from surrounding villages. The locals have been asking for this toll plaza to be shifted back by 6 km towards Manesar as more high rises have come up since it was set up. The local MP has taken this up with the National Highways Authority of India.
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