Appasaheb Malagaudanavar

Abstract Others


Appasaheb Malagaudanavar

Abstract Others

An alternate system

An alternate system

10 mins

In a country where demand is many fold more than the supply, wrongdoings do happen. Supply always comes on the heels of demand. People find ingenious ways of doing things, for good as well as bad. I sometimes wonder at their intelligence or cunningness to come out with such methodologies. The methodologies adopted change with time. Mostly system loopholes or deficiencies are exploited by those who have full knowledge for their benefit. The famous economist Alfred Marshall who is considered as father of the demand and supply theory, wrote that asking whether supply or demand determined a price was like arguing “whether it is the upper or the under blade of a pair of scissors that cuts a piece of paper.” The answer is that both blades of the demand and supply scissors are always involved.  

This happened in the early nineties. My boss was out of the station. We lived in a township, where our company provided accommodation. The township was a total contrast to the other parts of the city. The city was dirty and looked more like a village than an industrial city. For that matter, villages are cleaner. In the township, we were secure, the environment was clean and green. We had no issues with the power supply as we had a generator backup. For the rest of the city, in those days power was a luxury. Nowadays things have changed. It was a common thing for the colleagues to help each other’s family when one of us was out on official duty. Sometimes we had to be away for weeks. 

It was one such occasion when the boss was away for a week. His mother-in-law who was staying in Calcutta (Now it’s known as Kolkata) called it a day. His wife got a phone call around 12:30 pm. That was the time we used to come from Office for lunch. When I came home for lunch, my wife was missing. I could not see her in our backyard either, I went out. I sensed some movement of people in the other lane where my boss used to stay. I went and there, I could see a gathering of people. People have gathered to show their sympathy for the aggrieved family. 

One of our senior colleagues Mr Mandal, who was very close to them also came and together we started asking for the plans. There were a total of four in the family, excluding the boss, herself, and three children. She said she would leave for Calcutta with the children as early as possible. Mr Mandal who happened to be from Calcutta, knew that the best way would be to travel by Rajdhani which departs around 9:30 pm and reaches the next day by 9:30 am. There were no flights from Kanpur to Calcutta. Other trains may get delayed and will be more crowded. She called up her family to arrange for final rites only the next day after she came. Boss was contacted by them and would be arriving in Calcutta from Bengaluru (then Bangalore), where he was on duty, by flight. We told them to get packing and started for the office to make ticket arrangements. 

We went to the office and searched for Mr Qasim, our ever-dependable person. He was not seen in the office, people in his office said he had either gone to the railway station or the Indian Airlines office (wing of Air India which used to operate domestic air services along with neighbouring country international air services) for reservations. We contacted the Indian Airlines Office, and to our luck he was available. We explained the situation and conveyed that the Lady and three children need to go to Calcutta and he should try for Rajdhani Express preferably. He asked for us to come around 9 pm to the station. He took some time ( Probably looking at the fares chart ) and told me to bring a certain amount of cash. 

We went back to the township. We told the lady about the fare charge to which she frowned and said it was double the normal Rajdhani fare charges. They were used to travel by the Train and knew the fare charges. However, given the circumstances, she had no choice. Mr Mandal said he would arrange for the money. It was not easy for us to talk about the money. But as it was a large sum, to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding later on, we had to communicate. Some of the neighbours brought food for them and the family had dinner reluctantly. 

We took the family to the station around 9 pm. Two of us who would be returning back took platform tickets. As we were waiting at the entrance, Mr Qasim came and took us to the platform. The arrival platform number for Rajdhani was displayed at the entrance. We had to take the cross-over bridge to reach the platform. After reaching the platform, he searched for a particular Coolie and brought him to us and explained that we should give double the money of the fare for the tickets to him. He will take care. The three children were above twelve years old and hence qualified for a full ticket. The amount was calculated by Mr Qasim using the timetable he had and the money was given to Coolie by Mr Mandal. Coolie took the money and left. 

After some time, the train arrival announcement was made. Coolie came and said an arrangement is made for a second AC sleeper coach and took us where the coach was expected to stop. On the platform, they display the coach numbers for the convenience of passengers to position themselves based on their reservations, to board the train. Without which passengers will find it difficult as there are about 25 coaches including engine and the train would be about 650 meters long with each coach measuring around 25 meters. As we could see the headlight, and hear the shrill horn of approaching train, TTE came. Coolie introduced the travellers to him. TTE mentioned the berth numbers, he politely said he could manage only three, and one of them would need to adjust. They did not have an option. He told them, money would be with him and they need not worry. 

The Lady came to me and expressed her worries about not getting the tickets. I approached Qasim and asked him. He went to them and explained to them not to worry, TTE would ensure that they would reach safely without any trouble. Also told them that by all probability they would get back half the money at the end of the journey if all went well.

Train arrived, they boarded the train and the train departed from the station after its due stoppage time. Now I was a bit concerned about the whole thing and asked Qasim how it worked. He explained it in detail to me as follows.

After the train starts and crosses the first stop, (from the originating station, in this case Delhi), Head TTE would know the vacant seats and they communicate with the major stations where larger requirements are expected using their telephone system. Some select Coolies are the contact points at the major stations like Delhi, Kanpur, Moghulsarai with the passengers. The TTE collects money twice the fare charges from the identified passengers and keeps it with him. On train journeys, the Checking Squad sometimes enters at intermediate stations and starts verifying the activity of TTE and also the reservations, ticketless traveling, etc. If TTE is found to default on not collecting a penalty for ticketless travelling or unreserved travelling, he will be subject to disciplinary action. 

Two scenarios emerge. 

The first scenario. Till the end of the journey, the Checking Squad doesn’t come. 

In such case, at the drop-off station, TTE will look for a Coolie who has a tie-up with him, who will be waiting at the alighting station. TTE would tell the passengers to take his services to exit from the station. TTE gives half the money to Coolie, directs him to see that passengers exit the station without any problem, and on exit to hand over the money to the passengers. 

All of us know while exiting from the station, random checking is done and if caught ticketless, the penalty is to be paid or one will be handed over to railway police for further action. The penalty is decided based on the train arriving at the time of capture. 

The Coolie would carry the luggage also and guide the passengers and see to it that they exit the station without being checked, at this point Coolie would hand over the money given to him. He would collect his charges for carrying Luggage also. 

In this case, the full fare charge is pocketed by TTE ( half is given to the passenger). This money is shared in proportion by all involved as there is no ticket issued. I was told on average about ten to fifteen passengers will avail of such service every day on each of these trains. It’s a huge amount gained by the concerned group and a loss to the Railway exchequer. 

Second scenario. The Checking Squad enters and starts the inspection.

The squad finds these passengers traveling without a ticket. The TTE immediately shows that he has collected the penalty from the passengers and is in the process of issuing them the ticket with the excess fare. Thus evading action from the Checking Squad. 

The rule for penalty is normally equal to the fare charges from the point of boarding the train, but as it is difficult for one to prove as TTE might not have seen one get in, TTE more or less will penalize from the Train originating station till alighting station. It’s at the discretion of the TTE. If he is generous he may consider whatever station the passenger mentions as a boarding station. The passenger ends up coughing up twice the fare when traveling without a ticket or unreserved. 

That’s why, they collect twice the fare in the beginning itself. In the instance this happens TTE pockets only the difference amount left after the excess fare. 

TTE will tell the passengers to remember the stops and if Checking Squad asks they should tell the last crossed train stoppage station name as their boarding point rather than the actual station from where they have boarded. In fact, he lists the stations on paper hands it over to one of the passengers, and asks them to keep crossing at each stoppage station. That way he ensures that they don’t commit a mistake otherwise he will have to Charge excess fare from the originating station and he will not have any money left to pocket. If the passenger correctly tells the station to the squad, immediately using his discretion TTE will issue an Excess fare ticket from that station and hand over the ticket to the passengers. The differential amount which is left out is pocketed by TTE. The more late the Squad arrives the more he is benefited. Also, he doesn’t worry about looking for the Coolie at the drop-off station as passengers would be having a valid ticket to exit safely. 

Whatever may be the scenario, it presents a system, I would call an alternate system, that worked perfectly in this case. The family reached safely and participated in the last rites. They also received half of the money back. Ended up paying only the actual train fare. No deceitful actions or any cunningness in holding back the money. No troubling the family and as promised the money was returned. This system was prevalent only for Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains as the amount involved was very large. This system was spread by word of mouth by the ones who have made use of it and not known to many. 

I do not know if this system is in vogue now. I have moved down south, so our travel requirements have changed. 

When in dire need, we embrace such systems without question, but otherwise we start arguing about it being illegal, unethical, corrupt, and whatnot. As long as we have excess demand and a shortage of supply, such practices will continue. People will find ways of defying the system or exploiting the loopholes in the system. Every one of us in the north those days, must have bribed TTE or paid commissions to agents on some or other occasions for train journeys or must have traveled courtesy of co-travelers. 

With the passage of time, different systems like Tatkal and dynamic fare systems have been introduced and now many cities are connected by air, thanks to these growths and development measures the travel scenario has changed. But the population that was around 80 Crores in the nineties has crossed to 140 Crores today, presenting different challenges to the government in particular and people at large. We will continue to have such corrupt practices, unless we the citizens of India realise and take definitive corrective measures to effectively control and reduce the population growth. Gen X will never live to see that day. Hope Gen Z will see that day in the future. It’s in their interest to introspect and act. 


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