Though you might think that touts are everywhere since it is easy to come by one when you need a confirmed train ticket, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) could lay their hands on not more than 36 so far this year in all of the Central Railway’s Mumbai division. A Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed that while only three RPF men from the Central Railway could arrest 56 touts last year, this year 40 RPF cops could manage to arrest a mere 36.
Anis Khan filed the RTI query regarding the number of touts apprehended and the number of RPF staff deployed for it. “There are thousands of touts in Mumbai division. How is it possible that 40 RPF staffers arrest only 36 touts? Last year, only three RPF men arrested 56 touts. The figures show the corruption that is happening in the team,” said Khan.
When passengers go to buy tickets at the railway booking counters, there is a very slim chance that they get a ticket. Annoyed that they don’t even get confirmed tickets after standing in queue for hours, they turn to agents who can reserve berths for them.
Abhishek Yadav, who until two years ago would stand in line the whole night to get a ticket to his village in Kanpur every year, has now started saving money to book tickets through these agents well in advance. “Even after buying tickets three months before the journey, I don’t get a confirmed ticket. I used to stand in queues for hours and get a waitlisted ticket. So I decided to pay more money to touts and buy tickets off them. There are a number of touts at each station in Mumbai,” said Yadav, who paid Rs 1,000 for a sleeper class ticket this time for going to his hometown.
Interestingly, another RTI query has revealed that every month, an average of over one crore tickets are booked by these agents. Between 2006 and 2012, their numbers shot up from 1,537 to a stupendous 1,35,157 across the country, and the city is host to a substantial number of them. From time to time, the RPF staff nabs the touts from different stations but cannot keep their number down.
“We are doing our best to rein in the touts but passengers have more trust in them and that’s what’s pumping their numbers. Passengers think that instead of standing in queues for hours, paying extra money is worth a confirmed ticket,” said a senior RPF official on condition of anonymity. Anil Sharma, inspector general, RPF, Central Railway, said, “The main reason for the reduced number of touts this year is that identity cards have been made compulsory for booking tickets. Last year, the ID system wasn’t in place and touts were more active.”