Today, Indian Railways is perhaps the only existing colossus for all educated youths desperately hunting for jobs in public sector. Everyday little less than thirty million people travel by rail in this country which states clearly how purposeful this railway network has proved to be since 161 years. It has successfully connected hundreds of dots in Indian map which would otherwise have remained ‘Videsh’ for most of us till today. In short it has revolutionized the idea of traveling among Indians! Indian Railways has come up with a bagful of amenities for passengers/customers which are bettered every now and then for our convenience. But the most vital facility- the Tatkal Scheme of Indian Railways still seems to be huffing and puffing for some urgent reforms. Theoretically ‘Tatkal’ scheme is for passengers who need reserved seats on urgent basis or at very short notices. According to the commercial circular no. 43 of 2012, Tatkal booking/reservation opens at 10 AM one day in advance of actual date of journey, excluding the date of journey. The passenger can either reserve his/her ticket online through the IRCTC portal (I can see your laughter buddy) or reach the railway reservation counter by the mentioned time frame and fill up a simple form along with a self attested photocopy of his proof of identity. Now let’s see whether the Tatkal seva by Indian Railways is an emergency service with one of my very recent experiences.
It was not my first time, nor tenth time; frankly speaking I too don’t remember how many times I ran in my lifetime to Bardhaman railway station ticket reservation counter for a Tatkal booking. The otherwise useful IRCTC website, renowned countrywide for its miserable sluggishness, has always refused to help me in Tatkal reservation from home. The agents in the city turn their heads away as I approach them with the request of a single ‘tatkal’ but platform ticket. They say that a single ticket doesn’t bring them the minimum profit. Now where shall I find another 11 co-passengers to strike a deal with the travel agent? Now you know what fuels me to run for a life through the crowded Bardhaman junction in odd office hour. So, this was simply another morning when I was there to stand in a queue that would resemble more like free ration supply in a war zone, with exaggerated bravery and too little optimism.
Previously, if you arrived at dawn you’re the Don. But rules were not same anymore. When I tried to locate the sheet of paper where one needed to enroll his name for the Tatkal queue I found one but as I jotted down my name fast at serial number 13 it was shocking the find the next day date at the top of the list! Yes, truly 13 turned out to be unlucky for me too. Achievers leading the tatkal line taught me the current approach of booking a tatkal ticket. One needs to arrive early morning (please don’t piss me off by asking the exact time) and enroll himself in the list which will be used by the RPF constable (the tatkal queue manager) for forming the tatkal order for the following day! I don’t know how you’re managing a tatkal reservation in your city but in my place it’s as simple as this. ‘Tatkal’ is practically no more a tatkal service as you have to put your boots on from two days in advance and that too with faint assurance of securing a place higher up in the order. By closely inspecting the ambiance I highly doubt the authenticity of the tatkal queue list in RPF constable’s hand. In the language of a stray dog (off course that’s what we mango men are in real sense) I found the whole tatkal infrastructure corrupted from the very lower level and it’s certainly a big mismanagement from Indian Railways which needs to be urgently addressed by the Railway ministry ASAP.
Nah, that morning I couldn’t get a confirmed ticket for my journey and I had to spend two hours online in the afternoon to break my journey of 950 kilometers in three pieces and book tickets accordingly. But every time one may not be lucky enough to undertake break journeys or afford time for the same. So, the indispensable question still laments in air whether the Tatkal seva by Indian Railways is really an emergency service or merely a shrewd strategy to maximize its revenue from puzzled common men?