March 14, 2020 4:15:19 am
After cracking down on touts, the government is setting its sights on private ticket booking agents, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal informed Lok Sabha on Friday.
During a debate on Demand for Grants for his ministry, Goyal said, “Now, I think the chain of vendors and ticketing agents is not required. I am considering that these agents and sub-agents, who have put boards claiming that passengers will get tickets quickly, should be done away with.”
“Today, all have phones. They can book tickets using phones. If anyone wants help, that person can visit the government’s Common Service Centres and book tickets. This will ensure an income for youth working at these centres,” the minister said.
Cautioning members against “falling prey” to fake tickets, Goyal said the Railways had cancelled such fake tickets amounting Rs 10 crore so far.
According to him, 5,300 touts who used to black-market tickets were arrested in the past 14 months. Also, 884 booking vendors were blacklisted.
On the issue of travel time, Goyal said the Railways will carry out an assessment on stoppages and those found unnecessary will be eliminated. He said the Consultative Committee of Parliament had already approved the proposals made by the ministry.
Speaking on the contentious issue of the merger of the Railway Budget with the General Budget, Goyal attacked previous Congress-led governments, saying they presented a separate budget only to mislead people.
The separate budget was only a “balloon” and only attracted “claps” in the House, he said, adding that the “fake” announcements used to only mislead people in elections. He cited several examples of projects that have been pending since 1974.
Talking about new safety measures, Goyal said, “From April 1, 2019 to March 13, 2020 not a single passenger had died due to a rail accident….The millions of workers, who worked day and night; it is the effect of that… that not a single passenger is not.”
He also made a strong pitch for private investment in the Railways, saying it will help the Centre realise its goal of attracting an investment of Rs 50 lakh crore in the sector over the next 12 years.
Earlier in the day, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury resumed the debate on the grant demand. “Whenever we dwell on the subject of Indian Railways, we used to get a little bit nostalgic because we have witnessed the huge fanfare while the Railway Budget had been presented in this House. The Railways has been suffering from various lacunae, deficiencies, non-performances and other ailments which the Minister is well aware of.”
Chowdhury asked Goyal if the amalgamation of budgets had yielded a tangible outcome. He also questioned the minister on the status of the bullet train project. “The deadline that was fixed was 2022. I would like to know whether it will be possible to complete the work by 2022….”
Later, the House passed the Demand for Grants of Railways.
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