On social media, people have come out in droves to voice their opinions about the Indian Railways allegedly duping them out of money as well as wasting their time by keeping their booking portal open whilst still in lockdown.
In a recent discovery, it has been found out that the Indian Railways will have to let go of a whopping Rs 1,490 crores it made in revenue. This is mainly because they made a humongous booking of 94 lakhs in two phases – prior to the announcement of the first 21-day lockdown and secondly, before the announcement of the extension of the lockdown.
Due to the nationwide outbreak of Coronavirus all the transportation services, including railways, came to a complete halt. This resulted in the cancellation of tickets booked for the period of lockdown.
It was mentioned by the officials of the Indian Railway that they will have to forgo Rs 830 crores for the 55 lakh bookings it made for travelling between March 22 and April 14.
It was also made known by the same officials that the passenger train services only suspended on March 22 which was 3 days prior to the 21-day lockdown coming into force. This is quite understandable as the first phase of the lockdown was a decision that came all of a sudden out of nowhere and was put into effect haphazardly.
However, what came next is really appalling. The Indian Railways opened up for bookings once again between April 15th and May 3rd. This is when they further did another 39 lakh bookings and made Rs 660 crores in revenue.
Now the question that needs to be asked here is:
- Why is there so much of a communication gap between the internal workings of the government bodies?
- How is it possible that the Indian Railways had no clue whatsoever about the extension of the lockdown till May 3rd?
The Indian Railways has now announced that because of the lockdown, the IRCTC portal for booking further tickets will now become inoperational with the exception of the cancellation option remaining active.
They have also said that they will be refunding all passengers who booked tickets during this entire period. Besides, all the passenger train services will be kept under halt until further notice is received by them from the Prime Minister’s office.
Convenience Fee: Bone Of Contention
Now while the news of the refund put people at ease momentarily, they soon began to realise that the refunded amount was missing the added convenience fee that the Indian Railways charge on every booking.
A nominal convenience fee of Rs 15 for booking non-AC train tickets and Rs 30 for the air-conditioned and first-class train ticket is charged by The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation aka IRCTC.
This has now led to a huge outcry of people on social media who are now claiming that this was a Ponzi scheme by the Indian Railways all along and they have been deliberately duped.
If one calculates the amount the Indian Railways have made from the convenience fee of 94 lakh bookings, it could roughly be around Rs 21.5 crores which is a huge sum of money!
Even we give Railways the benefit of doubt for the first phase of lockdown – which was an unplanned directive by the government – it was no less than a blunder made by the Indian railways who started accepting bookings from April 15th without any clarity on the suspension of extension of the ongoing lockdown.
Only from the cancellation of tickets with a travelling date between April 15 to May 3rd Indian railways minted over Rs 7 corer as in convenience fees.
In response to this, the Indian Railways in a statement has said that they do not typically refund the convenience fee they charge on all bookings because it goes towards the day-to-day maintenance of the facility of ticketing along with its upgrades.
While this is a valid response to all the outcry that is being observed on social media, it also begs the question if it stands correct from an ethical standpoint of view. It was the responsibility of the Indian Railways itself to have shut down their booking facility in coordination with the Government directives which they definitely failed to do. Therefore all the passengers, in turn, had to incur this charge.
What is your take on this situation? Do you think Indian Railways is at the faulty side here? Do let us know in the comments below. We will keep you posted on all further developments.