BENGALURU: The recent crackdown by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) against sale of railway tickets in black across the country that resulted in 387 touts being booked across 141 cities has thrown up a startling disclosure. Special software was being misused by touts to book tatkal tickets within seconds thereby ensuring that only passengers who approach them for tickets would get confirmed ones.
Billed ‘Red Mirchi’, this software ensures that tatkal tickets are booked much faster via the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website compared to the normal method of using the website, said a highly placed official of Central Railway Information Systems, which manages all the back-end ticketing operations of the Corporation.
“Multiple user IDs were created by touts and used to book tickets as soon as the booking for Tatkal opens online,” the official said. “Red Mirchi elements are similar to bots and is fully automated. The tout feeds all the passenger info onto this software the previous night itself and as soon as Tatkal booking opens, all the slots get automatically filled up within four or five seconds,” he said.
The details fed are all genuine as passengers have submitted them to these ‘so-called travel agents’, the official added. It is no longer about petty touts hanging around in railway stations and selling train tickets for a higher price. They are instead seated inside fancy offices with boards implying they are travel agencies, another IRCTC official explained.
The tatkal opening timing for sleeper class is 10am while it is 11am for AC tickets. However, the window for travel agents open only at 10.30am and 11.30am for SL and AC classes, respectively. “However, touts pose as genuine passengers booking tickets and use the 10 am and 11am slot only,” said an IRCTC official.
According to a senior RPF official, 679 physical as well as e-tickets valued at `7,73,905 in total were seized across SWR zone alone in nine such cases. Altogether, 22,253 tickets were seized across India valued at nearly `33 lakh.
Instead of the `50 charged by an agent for booking a railway ticket, they charge a minimum of `100 and even more. “Passengers, particularly long-distance travellers, want a confirmed ticket and pay whatever is demanded,” he added. Asked if booking through Red Mirchi has been stalled now, a CRIS official said Railways was still in the process of doing it.