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Change in tack gets Railways on right track to bust Tatkal touts

Out of more than 50 million users, a list of most suspected personal user IDs was prepared. A total of 1,268 personal user IDs, which were being used to carry out touting activities, were sent to IRCTC to deactivate them immediately,” said Railway spokesperson.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2018 10:52 IST
Faizan Haider
Faizan Haider
New Delhi
indian railways,passengers,railway tickets
Indian Railways is systematically monitoring user IDs, payment gateways and booking locations to bust touts who block ‘tatkal’ tickets before users can book them, particularly during the festive season. (HT File Photo)

Indian Railways is systematically monitoring user IDs, payment gateways and booking locations to bust touts who block ‘Tatkal’ tickets before users can book them, particularly during the festive season, according to three senior officials familiar with the development.

The officials said that this method is a big shift from — and proving to be far more effective than — the traditional crackdown through field intelligence on gangs selling train tickets at higher rates.

Tatkal (or immediate) tickets can be booked a day before a train’s departure for 10% to 30% more than the base fare. Before reaching the final booking page, a user spends about two minutes filling basic details. A Railway Protection Force (RPF) official said that touts, on the other hand, were using software that took them directly to the payments page.

As a result, when the Tatkal bookings opened for passengers at 10am, officials found that all tickets were sold out in seconds. The touts would buy these tickets, and often sell them at double the price to individuals who contact them for tickets.

The touts would buy these tickets, and often sell them at double the price to individuals who contact them for tickets.

“Field intelligence was not sufficient to break such gangs who are hi-tech. So we contacted tech experts and started monitoring the Indian Railways ticket booking website. We monitored if similar user IDs (such as jumbo 1, jumbo 12 or jumbo 123) are being used for bookings,” said a second official, who is part of RPF’s investigation team.

“The second method was to see if same payment details were used for multiple bookings. A fake user will not change the payment details for every booking. We also checked the location through URLs used at payment gateways and conducted live raids,” he added.

Till November 2, a total of 891 touts were arrested, and tickets worth Rs 5.75 crore recovered, said the first official cited above. This is more than double the amount of tickets seized in 2017, when 1,179 people were arrested and tickets worth Rs 2.23 crore were recovered.

Many organised gangs of touts are involved in the black-marketing of tickets. They use software to fill in passenger details for bookings.

“We have launched the drive keeping in mind the festive season. Simultaneous raids against e-ticket touting were conducted in more than 100 cities. Out of more than 50 million users, a list of most suspected personal user IDs was prepared. A total of 1,268 personal user IDs, which were being used to carry out touting activities, were sent to IRCTC to deactivate them immediately,” said Railway spokesperson.

A total of 300,000 tickets are booked every day via the ‘tatkal’ system, which was launched in 1997.

“Those committing crime always try to be one step ahead of the law enforcement agencies, but over the period of time railway police have also developed skills to catch those who are committing crime online. The investigating agency has to move ahead with the latest technology available,” said Shiv Nath, a UP cadre police officer who retired from the Government Railway Police.

First Published: Nov 06, 2018 08:39 IST