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Railway Budget
Union Rail Budget 2014-2015: Suggestions of a citizen journalist -I
The Union railways minister would be busy in preparing the rail budget for the fiscal year 2014-15 and as per Narendra Modi's commitment, he must be doing everything to make Indian Railways an invaluable asset even if some bitter pills to the commuters have to be given.

In this entire process of finalization of rail budget, as an Indian citizen I am submitting three suggestions for consideration of Railways ministry. The three suggestions are on Tatkal ticketing services, right timings of trains' arrival and departure and cleanliness in trains and on and around platforms.

My article 'The great Tatkal mess in Indian railways' published on 19th June 2014 in this website is in itself explanatory how Tatkal scheme is utterly manipulated and discriminatory to common commuters. My proposal is as follows.

Tatkal scheme was started with a noble intent that interests of those deserving travelers, who have to travel at a very short notice mostly in some emergency situation, should be taken care of. Everyone is in agreement that such urgency must be honoured. The influential persons/groups are sure of are getting tickets in any circumstance using their influence, which really defeats the intent of Tatkal scheme.

My suggestion is to end the percentage quota for Tatkal scheme. There should be no Tatkal quota at all. Rather, availability on Tatkal scheme for the quantum of seats would be declared just in penultimate day of journey and ticket would be charged from starting station to the destination station.

However, two contrasting points arises here. Firstly, if there is no fixed quota, how Tatkal quota comes out on the penultimate day. But it's simple. There is around 15 per cent quota for divisional railways and then headquarter quota and VIP quota (MLA/MP/Minister). On clear understanding, the quotas might be a requirement in national interest, such as divisional officers requiring emergency attendance, headquarter officers need to reach somewhere and finally VIPs travelling in rail in national interest.

Unfortunately all these quotas are being sold openly. Once I had to pay Rs 300 extra to my travel agent for a seat from Trichy to Cuttak. He confirmed my ticket. The TTE too gave much respect to me. I just saw the chart where against my name HQ was written. The meaning was that my ticket is confirmed under headquarter quota. I was confused, how it was possible when I am not a member of Railways services at all. My agent explained that headquarter, divisional heads and VIPs can recommend a PNR to be honored as their quota. Interestingly, the travel agents take this advantage.

Better would be, no PNR confirmation rather accountable allocation of quota subjected to RTI. If Minister/MP/MLA is not going personally, their quota should be considered vacant. Similarly if duty officers are not availing this reservation, these should be declared as vacant and if permitted must be subject to RTI.

If this practiced strictly there would be lot of vacancy! If not in one train, let it be in other trains! For example if a VIP consumed a quota in Rajdhani Express how can he still consume his right of quota in all other trains leaving the same day!

Thus, the VIP or special quota holder must declare before a time limit that they are not going to avail their quota. (In fact if not applied within scheduled time, their quota should b ceased). Thus the vacant and available berths can be subjected for Tatkal booking.

Those who want to travel under a very short notice are never wary about the train they wish to travel. Their only motto is to get a seat as early as possible. If you provide fixed quota, able and influential people will use this quota, as surety of quota is there as well as easy purchasing!

Thus I propose no fixed quota for Tatkal. Let us know if there is any vacancy on fixed statuary quotas (if brought under RTI, there would always be vacancy as all VIP quota holders are travelling on air) and those should be open for Tatkal scheme. This would end the manipulation as well as confidence of rich class that they would get a ticket anyway for a particular train.

Further I would suggest that while preparing chart look into the quantum of waiting list. If required try to add extra boogies in all classes (even at the cost of two engines, which is beneficial for Railways). Thus all waiting list passengers will get justice and if still there are vacant seats with additional coaches, then that can be considered as Tatkal seats.

When government is in charge of Railways, it has to consider public's problems. If you want a professional solution, better privatize Railways. In any case you can't discriminate a person booking his berth 45 days ago against a person who can pay Tatkal charge.

Second is that the Tatkal charge should be between from the station of origin to the destination station! When this is liquidated people start manipulating. It should be understood that Tatkal is for those who really want it on emergency basis.

Ordinary people never have any urgency and even if they have, they never get this facility of Tatkal. Point is simple: Will the Railways stop a facility that is helping rich and influential people majorly at the cost of needy, requiring and genuine commuters?

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