Come July 1, the second half of the calendar year 2016, Indian Railways will offer few more facilities and abort some existing facilities as part of the government move to “befriend the rich travellers” at the expense of the hapless poor and the middle class.
The tatkal reservation that gets no refund of money for cancellation of tickets will now refund 50% of the ticket amount, if cancelled. But the rider is that booking for tatkal is restrained for only AC classes between 10 and 11 AM and then for sleeper class from 11 AM to 12 PM.
Usually passengers opt for expensive AC class reservation when they cannot get tickets for sleeper class but now they are forced to buy AC reservation, if available as uncertainty over getting sleeper reservation hangs over their heads. It means Indian Railways want to sell off its AC reservation seats (equivalent to airfare) first and then offer low-cost sleeper seats.
Here again premium tatkal will come into play for sleeper class seats and those in hurry will be penalised to pay double or triple the amount of the railway fare. Who says Railways is run by the government? It has become worse than any private firm in fleecing money creating artificial shortage of seats and trains in the country, that too enjoying the centuries-old colonial period monopoly.
No other country, whether US or Japan, to mention for example, has such monopoly in the railway sector and yet offer tickets on premium. The dichotomy should end and the government should also allow private players in the sector before allowing the Indian Railways to charge premium on its tickets. Serving the poor and middle class is no longer the motto of the Indian Railways.
In another move, waiting list will come to an end from July 1 and tickets will be issued only for confirmed and RAC passengers’ accommodation but those who opt for wait-listed tickets will get alternate facility in Suvidha trains. If they cancel these tickets, only 50% cash refund will be given.
Another retrogressive and rich-friendly feature that the Railways will introduce from July 1, 2016 is that the number of coaches in Rajdhani and Shatabdi will be increased, again giving more room for AC coaches. But to offset criticism, they seek to show their eco-friendly gesture. Mobile phone tickets will be issued on these trains, removing the paper tickets forever.
The only consolation after banging the passengers with hefty charges, fines, penalties and premium charges, Indian Railways will give them a ‘wake-up call destination’ facility in the trains from July 1. You don’t have to ask co-passengers to wake you up when your destination is nearby now. But remember to charge your phone battery for this.
Another long-pending service that takes effect from July 1 is that the official website IRCTC will also start booking tickets in various languages.