Bangalore (SBC): This year, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) seized tickets worth Rs.6,20,671 during raids conducted at various Passenger Reservation System (PRS) centres in the city.
The raids unravelled an unholy nexus between travel agents and railway officials. Despite campaigns launched by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to slam the brakes on the activities of travel agents, railway tickets continue to be available in the black market.
This reporter, who posed as a ticket buyer, went on a reality check. The first port of call was Koramangala, where the reporter sought a ticket to Guwahati in less than four days, which is almost impossible during normal circumstances, but the travel agent readily agreed.
When asked whether the reporter herself could book the tickets without his help, the agent, Dhanush (name changed), said, “Madam, you will have to wait the entire night at the PRS centre.”
When the reporter asked the agent himself had to wait the entire night, he replied, “I have my contacts.” The other agents, who were contacted in Majestic, Chamrajpet and Madiwala areas, also gave similar replies.
S. Louis Amuthan, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner of RPF, Bangalore Division, South Western Railway (SWR), said, “Without a doubt, touting activities have come down drastically. This year alone, we conducted more than 2,593 raids and arrested 162 touts who were booked under Section 143 of the Railways Act for unauthorised procuring and supplying of railway tickets. We have five teams conducting inspections at PRS centres in the city every day . Unable to bear the heat, most of the agents are going away from the city and conducting their business from Tumkur and other remote areas,“ said Amuthan, and added, “Travel agents continue to thrive in the city as moneyed clientele, like techies and engineers, are willing to pay a premium to get railway tickets. It is these people who are encouraging these touts. This has affected other deserving passengers, who wait in queues throughout the morning,” he said.
On the alleged nexus between railway officials and travel agents, the railway official said, “In the past, many officials have been suspended for their links with travel agents.The PRS system is now centralised and digitised. There is a board monitoring the activities on these computers and whenever there is a bulk booking or fast filling, the Railway Board takes note of it. They are under scrutiny all the time.”