You book a train ticket 2-3 months before the scheduled date and get a waiting number of say, 10. You keep waiting for your ticket to get confirmed but it never does. However you find that a friend of yours who booked the ticket after you and has a waiting of say, 50 has got his ticket confirmed after the chart comes out. Or consider the case where a person goes to a travel agent, pays a hefty amount and gets a confirmed ticket at the last moment without using the “Tatkal” system. How is that even possible !! In case the friend is a family member of railway employee the first thought that comes into mind is that there might a separate special quota for railway employees and their families or may be he knew a VIP.
I am writing this post to clarify this notion with the best possible information and experience available to me. To gain information I filed an RTI and I gained experience firsthand coming from a railway family. But first things first. Here is the RTI reply from ministry of railways (MoR).
At first glance it seems that it is the VIP quota of Indian Railways. There is no online way to apply for it. I couldn’t find any information about this quota on official website of Indian Railways and the data of number of seats allocated to this quota is not available publicly. VIP quota is not uncommon in the country and so this quota doesn’t come as surprise.
However now notice point 1- (ix), (xiii), (xiv). This is where the problem comes into picture. 1.ix allows allows “others” to also avail this facility based on availability. How would “others” apply for this quota when they are “bereaved, sick or have to appear for a job interview”? This is where you need to be from a railway person’s family or have proximity to a VIP/ railway officer. Rule 1.xiii and 1.xiv ensures that. To me this seems to be a very wrong provision in nature. If the railways want to give benefit of vacant seats in the quota they rather give chance to everyone to apply on counters/ online and give benefit to people in genuine need rather than helping a privileged few. This isn’t a tough task in era of internet.
Although not mentioned in the RTI reply, Southern Railway seems to have taken steps in this direction- “Passengers who intend to apply for EQ accommodation in the Thiruvananthapuram railway division should approach the office of the Senior Divisional Commercial Manager in the divisional headquarters here two days in advance in person or through representatives or by fax (0471-2326482) or by mail to email@example.com” (link).
Another problem with this quota is that it leaves a loophole and human interference in the booking systems which is used by the travel agents to sell tickets to their clients at exorbitant prices at last moment. This takes place due to nexus between railway staff handling the allotment work. Railways, I think already know of this problem well- point 1.xix , 1.xx, 1.xxi. This circular dates back to February 2011 and as per my experience this problem still exists widely. This shakes the confidence of a common man in the railways and its booking system. Minister of state for Railways Mr. Manoj Sinha also accepted this in response to a question in the parliament (link). A writ petition was also filed in this regard in Madras HC (link).
MoR seems to paying a lot of attention on customer amenities these days. It would be a great idea to make this quota and its allotment a fair, equal and transparent system. Southern Railway shows how to begin. However for a pan India system email and phone won’t work and would require a separate system – both in person and online.
I have tried my level best to write the article factually and minimize subjectivity. If I have still missed out on any important detail please feel free to comment.
P.S.- I have also availed this quota atleast twice in my life. 😛