The Indian Railways have earned a whopping Rs 1,097 crore in penalties imposed on ticketless travellers, and more could be on its way during the remaining month in the current financial year. The Railways have also booked as many as 2,000 “touts” involved in the black marketing of tickets across India. The fines figure, a new high, is for the period April 2017 to February 2018, and Railway officials say March could yield another Rs 200 crore, adding up to what is in some ways a hefty bonus income.
The “flexi fares” that were introduced two years ago — essentially dynamic fare increases based on demand in premium trains — earned the Railways around Rs 600 crore extra per year. To earn something like Rs 200 crore for the Railways, a train like the Mumbai Rajdhani must run on full occupancy for all trips for an entire year — given the high operating costs, however, net earnings aren’t much; besides, the train is not always packed to capacity. Rs 1,000 crore is more or less the sum of the dividends its dozen-odd PSUs pay to the national transporter every year.
Post the merger of the Railway Budget with the general Budget, this money now goes to the Finance Ministry. In terms of expenditure, Rs 1,000 crore is what the Railways spend to lay around 70 km of new lines, including the cost of the land.
The Railways’ total passenger business is worth Rs 46,280 crore, as per 2016-17 figures. They have set an ambitious target of breaching the Rs 50,000 crore mark by the end of this fiscal, and add more passengers in the coming financial year. “We are making it more and more difficult to travel ticketless,” Railway Board Member Traffic Mohammad Jamshed told The Sunday Express. “This is a huge amount of money realised from offenders caught through intense checking drives.”
Drives carried out by a large number of ticket-checking staff, supported by security forces, were backed by CCTV coverage at key stations. There were “ambush checks” and “fortress checks”, during which officials cordoned off areas of porous stations to block every possible exit. The general unreserved class in long-distance trains usually has a large number of offenders, officials said.
Between April and February, 3 crore individuals were found travelling without a valid ticket, about a crore more than the number this time the previous financial year. Besides those travelling without tickets, there were those with tickets in others’ names, children without tickets, and adults travelling on half-tickets.
Trains and stations around Delhi had the highest number of ticketless travellers. Northern Railway collected some Rs 150 crore from these drives — around Rs 46 crore more than the same period the previous year. Mumbai’s Central Railway, with a predominant suburban rail system, came second in the list, earning Rs 143 crore, some Rs 25 crore more than the previous year.
Usually ticketess travellers are made to pay the original fare between the origin and destination of the train, along with a penalty of Rs 250. For premium trains, the penalty is double. Touts and unauthorised vendors are booked as per provision of Sections 143 and 144 of the Railways Act, 1989. Illegal users of online e-tickets are prosecuted under provision of Section 143 of Railways Act, 1989.