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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Fund crunch hit railways say no to premium charges on VIP quota berths

Railways’ several plans may have been hit by a fund crunch but it doesn’t seem to be in a mood to impose premium charges on berths released under emergency quota

bhopal Updated: May 30, 2017 21:27 IST

Ranjan, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Photo by Sanjeev Sharma/HT
Photo by Sanjeev Sharma/HT(File photo)

Railways’ several plans may have been hit by a fund crunch but it doesn’t seem to be in a mood to impose premium charges on berths released under emergency quota also known as HO/VIP quota.

Railways authorities at the helm of affairs discussed a proposal to the effect at least twice in the past four years. However, they didn’t accept the proposal for reasons best known to them, as per a reply given by CPIO, Railway board to an RTI activist in Madhya Pradesh Chandra Shekhar Gaur.

“An analysis of accommodation utilised under emergency quota during financial year 2015-16 has revealed that based on maximum tatkal charges the approximate earnings on release of berths would have been approximately Rs 300 crore”, said the proposal.

As per the reply the emergency quota is allotted first for self travel of high official requisition (HOR) holders and other VIPs including MPs as per priority indicated in warrant of precedence. The remaining berths under the quota are released ‘keeping in view the extant instructions and various factors like status of passengers travelling, nature of urgency like travelling on government duty, bereavement in family, sickness, job interview etc’.

“Since accommodation through emergency quota is provided at a period shorter than that of Tatkal and also keeping in view all the facts…. it is suggested that we may realise some charges under the name “premium charges” for release of berths out of EQ which can be equivalent to maximum tatkal charges as per procedures…”, says the proposal a copy of which was provided to the applicant as a part of information given under RTI a couple of months back.

The proposal came up for discussion before the railways authorities at least twice in the past four years- in 2013 and later in 2016. However, no decision could be taken on the same.

“During the discussion held in the chamber of Hon’ble MR on 27.05.2013, one of the issues discussed was for examining the feasibility of charging higher fare for accommodation offered/allotted under Emergency Quota (EQ) equivalent to Tatkal charges/higher charges”,

An authority’s noting on the proposal in June 2013 says, “Taking into account release of about 93 lakh berths/seats per year through EQ and assuming a charge of Rs 200 per berth/seat annual earnings would be about Rs 186 crore. To begin with, as proposed premium at the maximum of tatkal charges may be collected.The actual additional earnings and utilization of this facility may be reviewed after 6 months.”

The proposal submitted had its ground too.

“EQ is released by the nominated officers/staff for which a large number of staff is deployed at divisional/zonal level for performing different activities which includes compilation of requests, its segregation train wise and class-wise, finalizing allotment of accommodation, communicating the same to charting cell, feeding of quota by charting cell before preparation of reservation charts, at the locations situated far off from charting centre details of berths/seats to be released under EQ are faxed to charting cell and for outstation request the requests are faxed to the quota controlling authority.”

“All the activities mentioned above require a lot of expenditure on the manpower and infrastructure as these quotas are required to be released on a daily basis throughout the year. Railways don’t get any returns on this expenditure. It is, therefore, suggested to put some charges for release of berths out of EQ”, said the proposal.

The RTI activist Chandrashekhar Gaur wrote to PMO too. He said, “Since railway frequently hiked its fare and freight charges on the ground of its poor financial condition and revenue reasons and it realised tatkal and dynamic tatkal charges from passengers similar charges should be applicable on the berths released at the recommendations of ministers/MPs and other VVIPs too.”

However, the reply from the PMO which came in December 2016 said, “Your valuable suggestion is appreciated. However, the proposal for making HO/VIP quota chargeable was turned down after consideration.”

When contacted to know as to what was the reason behind the railways turning down its own proposal additional director general (PR), railways Anil Saxena sought an e-mail in this regard. However, there was no reply from him despite a reminder.

First Published: May 30, 2017 16:34 IST

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