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The Great Tatkal Mess in Indian Railways!
Let me share an interesting case I learned just couple of days ago although the state of affair is same for years and continuing. Two friends out of four booked their ticket on line roughly one and half month ago separately for same destination on same train. First Friend?s status was Wait List-2 where as second one?s status was WL-11 (AC 2-Tier). There was no improvement in the status till the penultimate date of the journey.
The man having waitlist no-2 although was sure that his ticket would be confirmed, but for a week before the day of journey he usually checks the status every now and then. He was really frustrated to see that no improvement in his status. Because he was desperate to have this journey, he tried to book a Tatkal ticket online during the period 10 AM to 12 noon on penultimate day, but IRCTC web site as usually either became very slow or many a time make automatic log out directing re-login. He couldn?t book the online Tatkal ticket. When chart prepared, he found that his status remained same WL-2 and got the message that his full money would be refunded back.

Second friend whose waitlist was 11, when saw that there is no updating, immediately contacted a travel agent. The agent asked copy of pan card, his charges of Rs 300 apart from normal Tatkal Charge. (To be noted that as per rule no agents can book Tatkal ticket). He got a confirmed ticket from counter. His e-ticket automatically cancelled as it was not confirmed. Another two friends booked their ticket on counter. On in regular mode some 15 days ago and got Waitlist 15. Fourth one purchased Tatkal ticket directly from counter having status WL-3. When chart prepared fourth friends ticket confirmed to RAC (from Tatkal waitlist-3). Third friend?s status updated during chart preparation as Waitlist-5. However as he had a printed (Counter booking) ticket, he boarded the train, talked to TTE and finally get a seat after two stoppages.
Second friend whose waitlist was 11, when saw that there is no updating, immediately contacted a travel agent. The agent asked copy of pan card, his charges of Rs 300 apart from normal Tatkal Charge. (To be noted that as per rule no agents can book Tatkal ticket). He got a confirmed ticket from counter. His e-ticket automatically cancelled as it was not confirmed. Another two friends booked their ticket on counter. On in regular mode some 15 days ago and got Waitlist 15. Fourth one purchased Tatkal ticket directly from counter having status WL-3. When chart prepared fourth friends ticket confirmed to RAC (from Tatkal waitlist-3). Third friend?s status updated during chart preparation as Waitlist-5. However as he had a printed (Counter booking) ticket, he boarded the train, talked to TTE and finally get a seat after two stoppages.

Isn?t the case is interesting? One person books an e-ticket some 45 days ago with waitlist-2 couldn?t travel. Other paid money and obtained a Tatkal ticket although illegally. Third friend was waitlisted first 15 and then 5 (during chart preparation) still able to travel! Fourth friend was lucky because despite his status of WL-3 in Tatkal ticket, he had been confirmed ahead of first friend, whose status never changed from WL-2! Isn?t something fishy there? To add a case above, yesterday I was reading in a news paper, while travelling from Allahabad to Cuttack, that in some UP station there was a protest by passengers standing for Tatkal ticket, as the first in the queue too didn?t get the ticket, as the booking clerk said that all tickets are exhausted may be because online booking!

Thus I decided to go in to the matter and talked to a close friend of me who works in railway and knows the detail about all these games! Railways may be public enterprises, but both railways as well as some vested interest staffs really play games where the common-man suffers. Just imagine the person with status of WL-2 for 45 days couldn?t travel. Can he ever expect that he wouldn?t be conformed?

Tatkal Scheme in fact introduced by then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar in a noble intent to give relief to many people who is required to travel in a short notice. That time there was just 10% of the seats were reserved in every class and it was charged from original station to destination station irrespective of where you board or de-board. Later on Lalu Yadav increased the Tatkal quota for about 30% with introduction of waitlist in Tatkal tickets too with provision to book Tatkal in 3 days advance. Same were again extended up to 50% by Mamata Banerjee. It?s to be noted that none has increased the train fare. But making such quotas automatically compel people to purchase Tatkal tickets and Railway earned indirectly through Tatkal Charges. Then it has subjected to various fraud and scandals. The most famous one is ?Fraud with Neeraj Tatkal scheme. Thus as a preventive measure new provisions are made such as Tatkal can be booked just a day before the train departs. Tatkal timing is done for both counter and internet from 10 AM to 12 noon, during which all agents banned to book Tatkal tickets. Despite all these protection, the above story happened!

At present the Tatkal quota is around 20% (It ranges from 10 to 20% depending on various trains). Apart from that there are lot of quotas such as Divisional quota, Head Quarter quota and VIP quota (MP/MLA/Ministers) which are around 15% of the available seats. Thus around 35% of the seats are blocked for ordinary ticket holders (both e-ticket and counter-ticket). The procedure during chart preparation is it is assessed whether the quotas are vacant or there is any cancellation. If yes, first waitlisted Tatkal ticket holders will get filled. Then if some vacant seats available, then these are filled by different quotas in between station considering other various aspects where revenue consideration is prime factor. For example if a seat booked for three time from origin to destination, then it would make 30% extra revenue as telescoping rate will not be applicable for the entire distance.

Apart from that the scandals are also rampant. Although agents are banned still they have internal understanding with some of booking clerks, who were ready with the slips at the counter during Tatkal timing. Interestingly if there is one honest clerk in a particular counter, they have access to another clerk in another station, who can book these tickets!  And finally I am really not able to understand why IRCTC web fails during Tatkal booking! (Some say it crashes because of over-load, but is it true?)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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