When Kannan, a resident of the temple city, was offered a ticket in a private bus to Chennai by an agent for double the usual fare, he had no other option but to take it since he had an urgent meeting there the next morning.
But what surprised him was the fact that the ticket was for a journey on board the same bus, whose operators had told him a day before that all seats were ‘full’ on the day of travel.
Like Kannan, hundreds of passengers travelling between these cities are at the mercy of these agents and private bus operators, who take them for a ride, even on days when there is less ‘passenger traffic’.
While the usual fare for a non-AC semi-sleeper bus from Madurai to Chennai is only Rs 560 per head, it is being sold for over Rs 700 by the agents.
Ironically, the website of the bus operator would show that the bookings are full and a visit to the office would yield the same reply.
Yet, agents would be seen approaching passengers with the ticket of their preferred dates for an exorbitant rate.
A travel agent requesting anonymity said that omni bus operators were well aware of these operations.
“Nowadays, bookings have increased even on normal days on the Madurai-Chennai route. To make good use of this opportunity, we create artificial scarcity by blocking all the tickets and sell them for a high price,” he said.
Representatives of leading bus operators too admit this practice, but justify it.
“We don’t bother about these agents. We are only concerned about selling all our tickets. The agents book the ticket in advance and block it. But it no way, it harms our profit,” an operator said on the condition of anonymity.
When contacted, District Collector Anshul Mishra said he had been receiving several complaints of this nature from passengers for the last two months.
“In one instance, a travel operator had forced a couple to purchase a full ticket for a child. We will soon convene a meeting to solve this problem,” he said.