The Tatkal Booking Scheme of Indian Railways was introduced to help the passengers in genuine need of travel at very short notice. On a rational basis, the tatkal tickets were priced higher than the normal tickets. After a few years of smooth running, the tatkal ticket booking system also got corrupted and the increasing woes of the affected travellers were diminished only recently when early this year, a huge scam related to booking of tatkal tickets was exposed by IBNT and the Railway department announced measures to check the menace. It was revealed from the scam that touts used to acquire bulk of tatkal tickets meant for emergency travel and then sell these to the passengers at highly inflated prices. The touts revealed the mechanism through which bulk tatkal tickets were e-purchased at exactly 8 a.m. i.e. the time of tatkal ticket booking opening. The bookings were performed over the period when IRCTC website would be hanged for several minutes. It came to light that the touts were investing Rs. 1 lakh per day for the bookings.
Clearly the amount of Rs. 1 lakh spent was not for the purchase of a few tickets but to have the web- site of IRCTC hung by complicit officials of the agency. But what is really intriguing about the whole episode is how the acquired tickets were transferred in the names of their purchasers or how the age and name of the purchaser was inscribed on the tickets post their electronic purchase between 8 a.m. to say, 8:10 a.m. This is a clear pointer at a well organised and orchestrated operation going on daily basis with the officials of IRCTC active collaborators.
And how is it that these shady goings on were never exposed for several years? It is utterly shocking to observe that such criminal operations were taking place in spite of the presence of vigilant machinery of the IRCTC.
It is understood that IRCTC has 83 principal agents and more than 1,50,000 sub-agents. It is abundantly clear that the fraud was the combined handiwork of all these groups – the touts, the IRCTC officials and the agents/subagents.
In the face of the rising complaints about the misuse of the tatkal scheme of booking tickets, a revised scheme with certain measures to remove the lacunae has come into effect from July 10, 2012 under which passengers can book tatkal tickets from 10 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. on the day previous to the day of journey. It is reported that measures such as installation of CCTVs in major booking centers, banning the use of mobile phones by booking clerks inside counters, display of helpline numbers for complaints and raids by vigilance squads have been taken to check the rampant misuse of tatkal booking facility.
In a society where evil mongers are always on the prowl, in a country where the corrupt and the delinquent elements are able to beat the law and beat the technology, only an iron will and exemplary punishment of the guilty can stem the rot. Otherwise, the ordinary citizens would continue to suffer. The government needs to act but before that the society has to wake up from its slumber and shed its daily apathy towards crime and corruption. The tatkal booking scam is a stern reminder of this. It has to be understood that plugging the loopholes in the system is not sufficient because criminal misuse of the system is done by the very persons working on it. Therefore deterrant punishment of the guilty – whether from the IRCTC or the outside public is the first and the foremost step warranted here. Otherwise, we will see the story repeating itself with more ingenious methods at work by these criminal elements after some passage of time.