Millennium Post

No reservations!

In the hoary days of single screen cinemas, it was a common to see ‘houseful’ signs proudly struck outside theatres. But most potential viewers would know that it was only eyewash. Lurking in the dingy lanes behind the theatres would be seedy ‘blackers’, who would buy tickets way ahead of the shows and then taking advantage of the fake ‘houseful’ scenario, sell those tickets at a higher price. The police and the hall authorities would be well aware of the problem and yet this malady was widely allowed to be practiced.

Something similar is going on in the tatkal scheme of the Indian railways. A sting operation by a television channel has shown that a section of touts and travel agents, hand-in-glove with the sections of the police are cornering tickets before they could be accessed by the public and taking the advantage of emergency demand and the inevitable ‘sold out’ situation, sold them at high prices. The extent, reach and scope of the racket were reported to be nationwide and operating at a rather large scale. At a huge stress and inconvenience to the desperate public who are ready to pay that extra amount to travel at short notice, this racket was operating with impunity and it was evident that this was continuing not without the knowledge of at least a section of the railways officials.

The tatkal scheme was introduced to ensure that a part of the tickets were kept for emergency booking and paying some extra money officially, one could book the tickets and travel at a short notice. One reason to make the public pay that bit of extra money was precisely to bypass the touts and garner some revenue for the railways, cash that would anyway be exchanging hands in an emergency situation. Now, that logic has been subverted.

This is not the first time that irregularities have been reported and several adjustments to the scheme have been made in recent years to keep the touts away. But this time the report has exposed such a wide network of corruption that the Indian railways are even mooting scrapping the scheme altogether. The Central Vigilance Commission may be pressed into action to enquire into the case. If not scrapped, a number of altercations could also be made to the scheme, so that people only with valid IDs and proof could be given access to tatkal tickets. But whatever be the attempts at closing the loopholes, unless the real culprits are nabbed, there is no hope for much success of this rather useful scheme.
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