Demonetisation: Railways to monitor big transactions

Railways seeks banks’ help after Rs.500, Rs.1,000 notes scrapped. Though notes are allowed for buying tickets, PAN card will be necessary for the buying of tickets worth over Rs.50,000.

reservation-counterNew Delhi: Facing a surge in buying train tickets including platform tickets over the counters using Rs.1000 and Rs.500 notes as these are allowed at rail premises, the Indian Railways on Wednesday sought banks’ help in providing lower denominations in return.

Railways carry out about Rs.100 crores worth ticketing business in a day, out of which about Rs.40 Crore is over the counters and rest is on e-platform. “Despite banks being closed on Wednesday, we are in talks with them (banking authorities) to get rupee notes of lower denominations like Rs.10, Rs.50 and Rs.100 to manage our booking counters,” said Railway Board Nember (Traffic) Mohd Jamshed.

Welcoming the decision for banning of higher denomination notes, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said, “It will benefit the people, society and country. Genuine customers will not have any problem because of this. Since Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 notes are allowed at rail premises, our booking counters are witnessing rush with people buying tickets using higher denominations. Even people are using Rs.1,000 notes for buying a platform ticket which is just Rs.10,” Prabhu said here on Wednesday.

Special cell to monitor High Value transactions

In a move against black money and corruption, government has banned the use of high denomination notes of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 since last midnight. However, these notes will be allowed to be used at a few places like airports, hospitals, petrol pumps and railway stations till 11 November as the government has exempted these services from the ban for two days to prevent inconveniences to common man.

“We have taken all possible steps to help passengers at stations and instructions have been issued to all concerned for this,” Prabhu said. Besides allowing Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes at ticket counters, Prabhu said catering establishments at rail premises have also been told to accept the higher denominations from the customers. He said Tuesday’s counter collection money is also being used on Wednesday to manage the pressure.

Jamshed further said that in order to help passengers with Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 notes, “food counters at rail premises are also accepting these notes”. He said though higher denominations are allowed for buying tickets, PAN card will be necessary for the buying of tickets worth over Rs.50,000. Earlier it was inflow and outflow of currency notes at equal pace but now the outflow is heavier, he added.

Indian Railways on Wednesday set up a special cell to monitor high-value transactions at ticketing counters in a bid to tackle attempts at laundering black money. It has made it compulsory for passengers purchasing tickets worth over Rs.50,000 to furnish PAN card details.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said people were queueing up with Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes since they were being accepted at railway counters. “A lot of people are giving Rs.1,000 notes to buy platform tickets that cost Rs.10,” he said here in an interaction with the press.

Large outflow at counters

Railway officials said an “unusually large number of people” were coming with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to buy unreserved tickets worth Rs.100 or Rs.200. As a result, there was a high outflow of smaller currencies from railway ticket counters. The Railways witnessed a 40 per cent jump in ticket booking through reservation counters in the first half of the day, officials said. At present, around five lakh tickets on an average are booked daily through reservation counters.

“We are taking updates every two hours to check if there has been any unusual transactions taking place somewhere,” Railway Board Member Traffic Mohammad Jamshed said.

Railways also took a slew of steps for passenger convenience at railway stations and on trains. Authorised caterers of the Indian Railways have been instructed to accept Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes till Nov 11, he said. “We have passed on instructions to all general managers that there should be no inconvenience to any passenger,” Mr. Jamshed said.

In view of the high outflow of smaller currencies, Railways has sought help from banks to manage its booking counters. “The Finance Ministry has issued instructions to allow Railways to procure smaller denominations from RBI’s regional offices from tomorrow,” Mr.Jamshed said.

Tourists in trouble, spoils plans

Travellers and tourists had a tough time at airports and railway stations while many travel agents suspended booking of tours and flight tickets on Wednesday, a day after the Union government declared Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes invalid. Though railway stations were accepting the currency, a few counters ran out of change and the absence of ATMs aggravated the issue.

Sources said foreigners who landed at Chennai and Trichy had difficulty changing dollars into the required amount of Indian rupee while those who were returning could not return the currency and buy dollars. Tourists at small towns had to face difficulty because many of the shops do not have card reading machines.

The situation at Chennai airport was better because cards are accepted for food and beverages at the terminals and airlines accepted Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for booking tickets. However, Indigo did not allow use of the denomination for in-flight purchase and to pay excess baggage fee at the airport.

N Sadhakathulla who landed at Trichy said, “During my travel from Kuala Lumpur, I came to know about the announcement. But I thought that we can get the required Rs 100 currencies from ‘Currency Note Exchange Desk’ at Trichy airport. However, we could not get the required volume.”

Those who had visa appointments had a difficult time because VFS did not accept the denomination which were declared invalid.

Travel Agents Federation of India office-bearer Basheer Ahmed said, “Ticketing had to be temporarily stopped because of payment problem to IATA. We are also in talks with VFS to accept the currency. Today people who went to pay visa fees had a problem.”

Domestic and foreign tourists faced a tough time buying food and making purchases at restaurants and shops at small tourist towns like Ooty where many establishments do not have card reader machines and refused to accept the currency notes. In most of the tourist spots shops that sell souvenirs and local delicacies accept only cash. A few tourists missed on buying Nilgiri tea and home-made chocolates because the shops that sell these items accept cash only.

L Rakesh and Sharmila, who reached in Ooty on Tuesday morning from Hyderabad for a four-day holiday, suffered because they were strangers and shops were not accepting the money they had. Hiring an autorickshaw for visiting tourist spots became very difficult and at the end they were left with only option of walking the possible distances they could.

“We have Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes only. Breakfast is free at the hotel so we are able to manage. But for other expenses during the day we are finding it very difficult”, he said.

Those who travelled by Omni buses did not face much problem because tickets were booked online. An Omni bus operator said, “There was only 40% to 30% occupancy on buses of which 70% of the tickets were booked online. We accepted the currency because we did not want to turn away customers.”

The invalid notes were accepted at railway stations. But there was chaos at ticket counters at Central and Egmore because staff ran out of Rs100 notes. A railway official said, “We gathered more liquid cash of Rs100 denomination soon after the announcement came. But that was also not adequate.”

Railway cashiers in dilemma

Ahmedabad: PM Narendra Modi may have announced that the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would cease to be legal tender from Tuesday midnight, but Indian Railways on Wednesday violated these terms and forced people to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as refunds for cancellations.

However, Amdavadis found a novel way to get rid of their Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. Four friends exchanged nearly notes worth Rs 1.5 lakh for tickets which they will cancel in a week.

On Tuesday the passenger reservation system in Ahmedabad division saw 20,000 footfalls and revenues were Rs 15.35 lakh. This number of footfalls was four times the usual. On a regular day, some 5,000 passengers reserve tickets and collections are around Rs 6.75 lakh. A railway employee at Kalupur Railway station said, “From the morning we are getting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes only. Even for a ticket of Rs 1100, we were given two Rs 1,000 notes. We were not given Rs 100 notes to provide change. We were tendering change as and when available.”J Meena, the chief reservation supervisor at Vastrapur centre said, “We did not have enough change and whenever someone came to cancel a ticket, we were forced to give him them Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 notes. We did not get much change and whatever was paid in for bookings has been tendered as change.”

Satyen Gupta, a resident of Vastrapur and four of his friends booked six tickets each from Ahmedabad to Kochuvelli by 16311 Bikaner-Kochuvelli Express. “In all, we booked 24 tickets from Ahmedabad to Kochuvelli along with the return ticket. Each ticket cost Rs 2,995 one way. My friend and I ended up paying Rs 1.43 lakh. We will do so again on Thursday and Friday. I have nearly Rs 6 lakh in cash and hence Rs 4.5 lakh will be used for tickets. We have booked wait-listed tickets for December 14. We will get them cancelled by November 20.”

Railways staff had a tough time as they had to convince every passenger coming for cancellation that they could deposit high-value notes in the bank. Many refused to accept the notes and we had to rebook their tickets for different dates.

New Refund Method for Railway Passengers

Guwahati: A day after the centre government announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the NF railway has adopted new procedures for those passengers claiming cash refund.

According to NF railway chief public relations officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma, the railway stations will be not in a position to refund as the stations were not well equipped with money from RBI/banks to be disbursed as per the new mandate.

However, passengers claiming refund would be provided a deposit slip (s) at the station and the slip could be used to claim the refund.

The refunds will be dealt by the refund section of Commercial Department of N.F. Railway/HQ/Maligaon (S.R. Roy, Dy.CCM/Claims: 9957550954 and. D. H. Sarkar, ACM/CR: 9957550967).

Further, while claiming refund, passengers have been asked to provide details of their bank account number and IFSC code number to facilitate refund through RTGS as per the policy of the government.

In case of more than Rs. 50,000, then the passenger should submit the copy of their PAN Card, informed Sharma.

Rural people put to a lot of inconvenience

The sudden ban on high-value notes put rural people in Srikakulam district to hardship at petrol bunks, bus stands, railway station and other places on Wednesday.

The RTC faced the heat with the sudden drop in occupancy ratio as conductors did not accept the the two notes. It came down to 45 per cent as against the 70 per cent on important routes like Visakhapatnam, Rajam and Tekkali.

Many people could not buy even essential goods like milk as traders were reluctant to accept the notes. “The Modi government’s intention of eradicating black money might be good. But it is not the way to do so. It causes lot of troubles to the ordinary people,” said Baratam Kameswara Rao, president of the Srikakulam Citizens Forum.

Former Minister Kondru Murali Mohan questioned introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes saying it would also lead to circulation of black money. “The Union government’s decision is [a] big blow to common people. They will be forced to move around banks to exchange their notes. It will be a tedious process for the next couple of months.”

However, BJP leaders hailed the decision. “Inconvenience for the people is temporary but it helps the economy which will have transparent transactions. Plastic money will come into circulation in rural area too.”

YSR Congress Party’s official spoksperson Yenni Dhanunjay termed it as an unwise decision. “The government is allowing fraudsters to convert their black money into white by introducing voluntary disclosure schemes. But the sudden ban causes mental agony to the people. It should have brought more number of Rs. 100 notes before banning the two.”

Realtors were shocked as they felt people would not buy land or apartments in the near future.

Demonetisation: Ruckus at railway station ticket counters

A section of commuters raised a ruckus at the Patna Junction on Wednesday as those manning the ticket reservation counters refused to accept currency notes of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 which had not been a legal tender since Tuesday midnight. The railways staff pleaded their inability to return the remaining amount in low denomination notes to the commuters.

“The government says we can use Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes for purchasing train tickets. The ATM dispensed just five Rs.100 notes when I withdrew Rs.20,000. I have to buy ticket for Rs.1,200 and need some money till I reach Delhi. So, I cannot give Rs.100 notes but the person on the ticket counter was not ready to accept Rs.1000 or Rs.500 notes,” said one Rajesh Kumar Pandey. However, Danapur DRM R K Jha said currency notes of low denominations were immediately rushed to each counter to avoid inconvenience to the passengers.

Danapur senior divisional commercial manager B B Gupta camped at the Patna Junction since morning to ensure smooth functioning of the reservation counters. Railways anticipated this problem, he said adding that the two high denomination notes would be accepted for the period as announced by PM Narendra Modi.

Jha said railways had already issued directives to all stations under Danapur division to accept Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes from passengers at the ticket counters.

SCR GM asks staff not to put passengers to inconvenience

South Central Railway (SCR) General Manager Ravindra Gupta on Wednesday directed the officers and the traders doing business in railway station premises to accept Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes from the passengers.

The GM held an emergency video conference with Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs), Chief Commercial Managers, Security Personnel and Accounts Officers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh at Rail Nilayam, Secunderabad.

He discussed the measures being taken to avoid trouble to passengers and asked them to make all arrangements for smooth journey of the commuters. Security should be beefed up at all booking offices, he said.

“The Government of India has specially permitted acceptance of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 currency of railways till November 11. As the notes are legal tender till Friday, passengers shall be allowed to transact the same at all railway stations for buying journey tickets and refreshments on platforms and running trains,” said Mr. Gupta.

However, the General Manger asked them to issue ticket deposit receipts in lieu of cash refunds for passengers, who seek refund on November 10 and 11, to overcome the change problem.

At Mumbai’s railway stations, ticket buyers peak as counters take abolished notes. “Never have I received so many Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes in my life from commuters,” the train officials said.

Long queues of commuters using a railway ticket as a ruse to get change for Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes kept counters across Mumbai’s railway stations busy Wednesday. While many rushed to buy unreserved tickets in large numbers, others queued up for availing half-yearly and yearly season tickets.  With the Union government allowing railway ticket booking centres, petrol pumps, hospitals and a few other locations to continue accepting the now-demonetised notes until November 11, railway station booking counters soon ran into the other challenge — finding change in smaller currency.

“Never have I received so many Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes in my life from commuters. Not even half the day is complete and I have received bookings for 70 half-yearly passes and 30 yearly passes; out of which, majority belong to first class. Six hundred first class tickets were also sold in the morning today. We had to wait for change from other railway stations to be able to return change to commuters,” said a railway booking official at Vidyavihar station on CR.

The shortage of change started in the morning hours itself as long queues began to form. “I have to take a quarterly first-class pass from Ghatkopar station to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and I only had Rs 500 notes with me. With no option to avail a change from elsewhere, railway booking offices are the only options left to the commuters. I am ready to wait as that is the situation now,” said Manas Parekh.

A huge increase in the number of passengers booking tickets for long-distance trains was also witnessed on Wednesday, an official said.

“More than a crore passengers booked season tickets in the Passenger Reservation System (PRS) division of Western Railway on Wednesday in comparison to 85 lakh passengers who booked tickets on Tuesday. This increase hints at a probable attempt by commuters to buy tickets that can later be cancelled,” a Western Railway official said.

“Tickets worth Rs 19,000 were booked by a person for a journey starting from Jammu and Kashmir to Kanyakumari at Mumbai Central station. There has been a mad rush of commuters since morning and we have been busy making them understand about the shortage of change. Tickets worth Rs 26 lakh approximately were purchased here today, compared to nearly Rs 9 lakh on Tuesday,” a booking officer at Mumbai Central terminus said.

Officials concerned with commercial department of railways said a left-over change from transactions done Tuesday helped them with giving the required change to passengers Wednesday who submitted notes of higher currencies even for purchases of tickets worth Rs 10, Rs 20, etc.

Railway officials are likely to impose a limit on the number of waitlisted tickets to be issued under PRS at ticket windows. “We may restrict the number of tickets that could be sold under AC I class and II class to passengers under waiting category,” said Mukul Jain, Divisional Railway Manager, Western Railway (WR).

Cash offices are also expected to give almost Rs 19 lakh in smaller currencies to WR, to ease the problem of shortage of change. Officials are also expected to impose a check on the identity of passengers buying tickets worth Rs 50,000 or more.

RBI denies Central Railway Rs 7.4 crore change for travellers

The Central Railway (CR) sent a (verbal) request to The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for change worth Rs 7.4 crore, but this request was shot down. The commercial department of CR told the RBI that they would need to give change to over 47 lakh commuters who use its railways.

An official said on the condition of anonymity, “The RBI told us that they cannot do so since they themselves have been asked by banks and ATMs to keep change ready.”

The CR has asked commuters to tender exact change and officials said that most counters were out of change by 10 am on Wednesday.

Some unload as much as Rs 5 Lakhs by booking waitlisted tickets. Railway stations turn Currency Change points for RS

Even as toll gates on state and national highways have been made free, ticket sale counters at railway stations turned into currency conversion points on Wednesday. The highways ministry decided to suspend toll collection across 365 plazas until November 11 midnight. Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said there would be logistic issues in returning change for Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes that commuters would furnish. “Therefore, we have decided to suspend toll collection”, he said. On the other hand, the decision to de-monetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes turned out an unexpected bonanza for the railways by way of ticket sales.

People and travel agents rushed to railway stations on Wednesday to book waitlisted tickets in higher classes to use up denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.

Passengers were keen to get waitlisted tickets with the intention that they may be able to cancel these and get refunds in legal denominations at a later date. A booking clerk on Western Railway said, “A maximum of six persons can book berths as per the requisition form. People panicked and filled up the entire quota, that too for to-and-fro journeys to faraway destinations like New Delhi, Howrah and Kankyakumari, in First AC coaches.”

For example, there were several instances of people in Mumbai booking waitlisted first AC tickets for Nizamuddin-Trivandarum by Rajdhani trains (Nizamuddin is a railway station in Delhi). Such a ticket for six persons with return journey costs Rs 81,000. There were people who did multiple bookings.

The booking clerk said, “With this modus-operandi, that is multiple bookings, some were able to use up Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 4-5 lakh.”

Amit Meghani (name changed) said, “I was tipped off about this by one of my relatives, who knows people in the railways. I managed to book waitlisted tickets worth Rs 50,000 with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations notes.”

The official said, “The only loss would be cancellation charges, which is barely 1% of ticketing costs. Upon refund, this money will remain with the person and it will be legal tender.”

Most such bookings occurred on the passenger reservation system (PRS) on Western Railway. A WR official said, “Till 4pm, the average earnings through bookings from the PRS per day is around Rs 86 lakh in the Mumbai division. However, due to surge in booking, earnings crossed Rs 1.8 crore, of which more than 60% was for First AC.”

On CR, booking earnings from PRS till noon was Rs 1.83 crore, as compared to a daily average of Rs 1.3 crore till 2pm.

CR acted promptly and blocked such mass-booking efforts. A senior CR official said, “We had anticipated this trend and instructed PRS officials to not entertain group bookings. Also, suspicious transactions, which we felt were being done, were declined.”

On the suburban system, commuters thronged the ticket counters to top up their smart cards with currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. Also, there were many who preferred to book season tickets for the entire year or at least six months.

There was a 229% increase in earnings on WR and 146% on CR as compared to Tuesday, due to the purchase of quarterly, six-monthly and yearly season tickets.


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