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LONG QUEUES of commuters using a railway ticket as a ruse to get change for Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes kept counters across Mumbai’s railway stations busy Wednesday. While many rushed to buy unreserved tickets in large numbers, others queued up for availing half-yearly and yearly season tickets. With the Union government allowing railway ticket booking centres, petrol pumps, hospitals and a few other locations to continue accepting the now-demonetised notes until November 11, railway station booking counters soon ran into the other challenge — finding change in smaller currency.
“Never have I received so many Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes in my life from commuters. Not even half the day is complete and I have received bookings for 70 half-yearly passes and 30 yearly passes; out of which, majority belong to first class. Six hundred first class tickets were also sold in the morning today. We had to wait for change from other railway stations to be able to return change to commuters,” said a railway booking official at Vidyavihar station on CR.
The shortage of change started in the morning hours itself as long queues began to form. “I have to take a quarterly first-class pass from Ghatkopar station to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and I only had Rs 500 notes with me. With no option to avail a change from elsewhere, railway booking offices are the only options left to the commuters. I am ready to wait as that is the situation now,” said Manas Parekh.
A huge increase in the number of passengers booking tickets for long-distance trains was also witnessed on Wednesday, an official said.
“More than a crore passengers booked season tickets in the Passenger Reservation System (PRS) division of Western Railway on Wednesday in comparison to 85 lakh passengers who booked tickets on Tuesday. This increase hints at a probable attempt by commuters to buy tickets that can later be cancelled,” a Western Railway official said.
“Tickets worth Rs 19,000 were booked by a person for a journey starting from Jammu and Kashmir to Kanyakumari at Mumbai Central station. There has been a mad rush of commuters since morning and we have been busy making them understand about the shortage of change. Tickets worth Rs 26 lakh approximately were purchased here today, compared to nearly Rs 9 lakh on Tuesday,” a booking officer at Mumbai Central terminus said.
Officials concerned with commercial department of railways said a left-over change from transactions done Tuesday helped them with giving the required change to passengers Wednesday who submitted notes of higher currencies even for purchases of tickets worth Rs 10, Rs 20, etc.
Railway officials are likely to impose a limit on the number of waitlisted tickets to be issued under PRS at ticket windows. “We may restrict the number of tickets that could be sold under AC I class and II class to passengers under waiting category,” said Mukul Jain, Divisional Railway Manager, Western Railway (WR).
Cash offices are also expected to give almost Rs 19 lakh in smaller currencies to WR, to ease the problem of shortage of change.
Officials are also expected to impose a check on the identity of passengers buying tickets worth Rs 50,000 or more.