Talk to the hand, Pune Railways tell touts

Oct 09, 2014, 05:41 IST | Anuj Ismail

The Pune railway division has installed two palm scanners that will eliminate tout menace at Pune Railway station; the machine allots a maximum of three coupons per person per day

The Pune railway division has come up with a radical solution to the tout menace at the reservation centre at Pune station. In order to book tickets at the reservation centre there, commuters will now have to provide biometric identification, to help the division keep track of passengers and the number of tickets they are reserving.

reservation counter
Handy technology:  To enter the reservation counter at Pune station, commuters have to collect a coupon from the palm scanners placed outside. Every person has a unique pattern of veins on their palms, which the machines scan. Pic/Shashank Sane

Yesterday, commuters who went to the reservation centre were asked to first collect coupons from two automatic palm scanners placed outside. The coupons had information such as the service number and which counter number they were supposed to head to. Once inside, they were pleasantly surprised to see that not only were the queues much shorter than they used to be earlier, but new seating arrangements had also been provided for their convenience. With the new coupon numbers, there was no longer any need to jostle for a spot in the queue, and commuters could sit comfortably while waiting their turn.

reservation counter
A commuter checks the coupon for the counter number he is supposed to approach. The machine will identify palms it has scanned earlier in the day, and will only issue three coupons per person per day. Pic/Shashank Sane

This is a far cry from passengers’ complaints in the past, that the reservation counters were always blocked by touts attempting to buy tickets by the dozen and holding up the queues for hours.

How it works
However, the palm scanners are a radical solution to keep the touts away, and will help the railways officials to ensure shorter queues and swifter service. The biometric machines scan the vein patterns on palms - unique to each individual - and then automatically issue a coupon. The coupon can be used to buy six train tickets, and no more. Commuters can print up to three coupons a day, ensuring that no one can book more than 18 tickets a day.

Each counter also has an electronic display board that will flash coupon numbers, according to which people can then move ahead for their turn. A Railway Police Force (RPF) constable has also been placed at the entrance to ensure that no one can enter the reservation centre without a coupon.

Yogendra Singh, PRO, Pune railway division, said, “The biometric system has been put in place to stop the entry of touts. We have installed two machines, each at the cost of Rs 1.5 lakh. We are also planning to install the system at Shivajinagar, Khadki and Pimpri stations in the coming days.”

“The palm-based biometric token system shall ensure that every person entering the Pune reservation centre is identified on the basis of their right-hand palm, and a token shall be generated by the machine only after that. The system is designed in such a way that one person cannot take out more than three coupons,” he added.

Rajesh Singh, an Undri resident said, “The new system is really effective and streamlines the process. It’s very impressive and the way it has been handled by the railway officials is amazing. Besides, we now also have a place to sit, which is an added advantage.”

Baner-based Sanket Jadhav was more cautious in his outlook, and said, “The biometric system is a good move by the railway department, but the real picture will emerge later, when we will see whether it is working effectively, or the touts manage to misuse it.”

Rs 3 lakh
Cost at which the two palm scanners were procured

Out of paper

They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but perhaps for the new biometric machines at Pune station, the proof is in the paper. The idea caught on so quickly with commuters, that within hours of its launch yesterday, one of the palm scanners ran out of printing paper, after issuing 965 coupons by 1.16 pm.

reservation counter

Citizens began to queue at the second machine for coupons. It took more than three hours for officials to refill the paper roll, as they were busy in meetings, and perhaps had not anticipated that the idea would gain such instant popularity.

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