Random Thoughts
D Dhanuraj
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Of late, I have been furiously poring over railway websites searching for tickets to nearby cities. I have to mostly hunt for tatkal ones, as my trips are usually planned at the last minute. Unfortunately every time I login to the IRCTC website early morning, the server status shows 'busy' and I am unable to browse through the options. Does this reflect a yet-to-be-ready IT platform in a country that boasts of IT exports? A user-friendly railway website has long been a dream of the public in this country. Compare this website to the interface created by several travel websites, where navigation is systemic and results are immediate, and you will see the stark difference.

Google India has an email id base of 18 million. Competing with them are Yahoo India and MSN India; not far behind, but with a deficit of 1 to 3 million. The Indian Railways has 9,000 trains serving the public every day. Up to 16 million passengers travel daily by train. It is, therefore, unfortunate and unprofessional that the Railways has failed to upgrade their website to meet the demands of the ever-increasing internet-using population in this country.

If Google India can handle 18 million emails (a majority of them are not paid users), why can't we manage a small number of visitors who seek to book tatkal tickets every morning? I believe that we have a very small number of travellers who use the online booking facilities; where as the total number of internet users in this country is 70 million.

I recently read in the papers that the Railways is planning to change the timings for tatkal bookings. Another article said master agents would be banned from booking tatkal tickets in the first hour. Reports say that there are 1 lakh master agents in this country and they get special privileges to undertake bulk bookings.

I don't understand why the Railways is promoting agents, when everywhere else steps are being taken to reduce their interventionist and corruptive methods. Why can't we use ATMs and post offices to book tickets, rather than allowing scrupulous elements to call the shots?

I understand that this is livelihood for many in the country but no one complained when people started losing revenue from STD booths with the advent of telecom revolution. It's the same case here.

We have more than 33,000 ATM counters across the country. The Indian Railways should sign an MoU with banks to provide a railway ticket booking option on ATM interfaces. The Railways can also come up with an application that be used with any mobile handset to book tickets.

Whatever the Railways does, it needs to spend a few crore rupees to increase server connectivity to handle the swell in demand by passengers. This would be a positive step in arresting corruption in the rail ticketing system in our country.

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