After the alleged bribery scandal related to appointments in the Railways Ministry that led to the resignation of Pawan Bansal,the CBI has turned its attention to the Railwayss internal practice of distributing Emergency Quota (EQ) to waitlisted tickets on need-cum-priority basis.
Following a complaint from Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh,CBI officials made multiple visits to the Railway Board this week and spent hours with those in the Railways Commercial Directorate,and officers of Passenger Marketing,who oversee the process of preparing charts and allocating the quotas as per requests.
In a letter,Ramesh had complained about the misuse and forgery of his official letterhead to seek confirmed tickets.
The CBI officials took with them documents related to the policy guidelines that govern the allotments of the EQ to tickets. They also took sheaves of paper,which are requests for EQ received from railway officials,MPs,MLA,and others. Internally,every directorate,including the Ministers Cell,has an official request form that is endorsed by an authorised signatory. The number of such requests at the Railway Board alone run into thousands everyday.
Sources said that the visiting officials asked the Railways to maintain in a specified format daily records of every request for EQ honoured by the Railway Board. Granting of EQ is an internal matter of the Railways. How does it fall in the purview of an outside agency? But we are cooperating right now, said a senior Railways official.
Every train has a specified number of seats in EQ quota,which are allotted against requests for emergency/urgent travel received from a wide array of people. The most number of requests is believed to be received every day from offices of MPs in their official letterheads.
Subject to availability,the Railways always honours requests received from offices of MPs and senior government officials. The problem often faced is that several such requests are signed not by the VIPs or the senior officials themselves but by their personal staff who use their letterheads.
The current political dispensation heading the ministry is believed to be working out a method of streamlining the system of requests. The earlier dispensation,headed by Bansal,had been planning sending out letters to MPs asking them not to keep their signatures scanned in their blank letterheads,as is the practice employed by many,but to personally sign them.