A recent anti-tout operation conducted by Central Railway's RPF for 20 days resulted in 12 arrests and revealed a chink in the armour of IRCTC's ticket booking portal.
The most intriguing of the arrests, however, was that of an 18-year-old computer science undergraduate student from Somaiya College, who was apprehended on March 5. Using his skills and sophisticated software, he allegedly managed to expedite online ticket booking procedures and thereby book multiple tickets at one go that were then sold for higher prices.
RPF officials said that Krishna Vishwakarma, a resident of Ghatkopar, used a laptop to book the tickets which were sold from various sources, including Gupta Tours and Travels at Bandra.
"He, along with his brother Ajay and cousin Pushpendra, were arrested with 136 confirmed e-tickets worth Rs 3.61 lakh, following the arrest of two other persons on March 4 who had with them 37 confirmed e-tickets costing around Rs 1.09 lakh," said an official. "They led us to Vishwakarma."
During his five-day remand in custody, Vishwakarma revealed that his father earlier ran an IRCTC authorized agency at Ghatkopar, and that it was from there that he had learnt the nitty gritties of the ticket booking system.
"He explained that by using certain software and his skills he could 'jump ahead' of everyone trying to book tickets online at 8 am. That helped him corner several confirmed tickets at one go," said Senior Divisional Security Commissioner Alok Bohra.
"We have now involved IT experts as well as the cyber cell to understand more about the software, as well as the modus operandi he used," Bohra said, adding that an investigation into the case is underway.
Bohra said that all the 12 accused, including Jitendra Gupta, owner of Gupta Tours, were booked under Section 143 of the Railways Act for conducting the business of procuring and supplying of railway tickets without authorization.
Meanwhile, an RPF official voiced the need for a separate team of RPF staff specially trained in IT, who can quickly crack such cases as touts were using the latest technologies and people were ready to pay tidy sums for confirmed tickets during peak season.
The official also said it was high time IRCTC made its website secure by designing a tamperproof ticket booking application to prevent such illegal activities. "It has already been conveyed to IRCTC and they have assured us that steps are being taken," the official said.