Private travel agents are counting the cost after the introduction of the rule that has made identity proofs compulsory for rail passengers travelling in all classes.
Beny, a booking agent with Sri Sri Bhanvani Travels in Bangalore, said: “We are definitely getting fewer customers thanks to this new law that the railway has made. Railway sales have fallen by more than 40 per cent (at the end of January), and we have to refund a lot of tickets.”
According to the Indian Railways rule, the ID proof could be a voter ID, PAN card, passport, driving license issued by a Regional Transport Office, a nationalised bank passbook with photo, a credit card issued by a bank with a laminated photo, a student ID card with photo or the Aadhaar UID card.
However, since all of these proofs demand a photograph, it seems that many railway passengers have yet to travel in a reserved compartment legally.
Raju, the owner of Sharma Transports in Kempegowda, said: “Most of my customers are from the labour class. They do not have a proper ID card with their photos. Other workers, especially from Nepal, Siliguri and Orissa, have their identification proof in different (their own) languages which is not considered valid by the ticket checkers here (in Bangalore). So I am left with no choice but to give them only unreserved, general tickets. Bus is a supplement, but for long distances it is not a good option.”
S.R. Bhaskar, the station manager of Bangalore City Railway Station, told The SoftCopy: “The main reason our ministry has started implementing this new rule is because of these middlemen who used to buy tickets from the counter and then sell them in black. I know there is a certain section of people that are at a disadvantage, but to stop one big menace we need to take a few harsh steps.”
However, the stricter law on rail travel has given a boost to bus operators, with travellers using buses as an alternative when they’re unable to get a reserved seat in trains.
Laxman, a construction worker, said: “I have to go to Kolkata. I wanted to go by the train as it is more convenient and faster but I don’t have any photo ID proof and so now I have to go by bus.”
Ramesh of Saptagiri Travels said: “A lot of times there are small children who do not have any identity card. The ticket checkers don’t even spare them and ask the parents for fine..”
Ivo, the manager of Paulo Travels said: “I don’t know whether it is because of the new railway rule or not, but in the last few weeks, very few of my bus seats go vacant. We have a steady business and the number of bus passengers has definitely not declined in the last few months.”
(Preya is a student of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bangalore. This article first appeared in the college online magazine, The SoftCopy.)
Source - the hindu business line