The decision of the Indian Railways to link Aadhar Card to IRCTC accounts for railway ticket booking will go a long way in achieving effective functioning of the ailing Indian Railways and help remove bottlenecks in the ticket booking process. However, the compulsory requirement of Aadhar card for ticket booking seems a bit harsh. The government will face flak for going against the Supreme Court’s judgment which held Aadhar as a non-compulsory document. It will hope that it manages to sidestep the court’s wrath and negotiate its case. The successful integration, if achieved, will definitely translate into more benefit for the commuters. Nonetheless, forcing Aadhar requirement under the garb of providing concessions and traveller insurance smells of a heavy handed stance for ensuring that people register for Aadhar.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has introduced a slew of reforms during his tenure and the latest move will create a live centralised database of commuters aimed at achieving clarity and seamlessness in the travel experience.
The government, through this compulsory linkage, has rolled out benefits like travel insurance for every commuter whether they book tickets online or offline. Before September 1 this year, it was restricted to online bookings only. Users will have to enter their Aadhar card details for registering with IRCTC. It aims at reducing the scope of booking tickets under fake names, but the current procedure of verifying traveller credentials physically in trains has visibly not caused any great difficulty for travellers or checkers. Putting mandatory requirements for Aadhar registration by linking it with crucial services like the railways is not a move that will go down well with travellers.
The argument that the government has forwarded is that it will remove agents and touts from the ticket booking process, effectively increasing availability of affordable tickets. It also claims that it will save the government a lot of money by removing the space for inaccurate bookings by individuals, organisations and agents to avail benefits and concessions that they are not entitled to.
Every person in India who has travelled by Indian Railways will have a story to tell on the difficulties they faced right from booking tickets to actually travelling in the trains. The major issues that plague the people are invariably unavailability or lack of reserved bookings, having to opt for unreserved bookings and struggling with agents and touts who help create an artificial ticket shortage by buying a bunch of seats which they sell off at a premium later.
The success of the Aadhar linkage service for ticket booking, which is expected to go live from December this year, also depends on the successful implementation of the Aadhar scheme itself. Although the government claims that nearly 90 per cent of the country has Aadhar Cards, it comes across as a hard to digest claim. If at all anything, it will also serve as a move to force people to sign up for the Aadhar and PAN. Many people opt out of registering for the Aadhar card primarily due to reservations on providing their biometric data to a centralised agency envisaged and handled by corporate minds. Even though the IRCTC aims to only use the biometric data to carry out verifications, it looks an ingenious play by the present dispensation to bring the larger public on board its Aadhar signup plans.
When it comes to foreigners and NRIs choosing to travel via Indian Railways, they are required to book the tickets at the Indian Railways’ International Tourist Bureaus located in several cities across the country including all four metro cities. These bureaus issue reserved tickets to foreigners holding valid passports against payments made in US dollars.