Try booking a ticket on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website and you'll find yourself taking an unwanted lesson in frustration.
The online ticketing is supposed to open at 5.30 AM onwards, Indian Standard Time, but the server always goes down and starts running from 8 AM instead. What seems to be even more dubious here is between 8AM to 8:30 AM, hardly anyone can book a confirmed ticket as the server is unimaginably slow. After 8:30 AM, the server runs smoothly but by then, the tickets all get booked up.
Finally, some action has been taken against alleged malpractices of Indian Railway's bookings, though it seems it may not be enough to ensure a proper service to the common Indian.
Considering several complaints over the years, Indian Railways has deactivated IDs of 1.4 million users, fearing booking malpractice. Rail tickets are always high demand but they're hardly available because of corporate bookings and a nexus between agents and fringe employees.
Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) has now barred authorised agents from booking e-tickets.
IRCTC has licensed about 100 principal agents in India. In turn, it appointed sub agents working as authorised ticket agents in different parts of the country taking a non-refundable deposit.
The IRCTC website is the sole online ticketing platform of Indian railways, apart from a couple of private players – Makemytrip.com and Yaatra.com. But, there's hardly any difference between IRCTC booking and these guys as the results always appear to be the same – Confirmed tickets not available.
IRCTC was unavailable for comment.
Not going so good for IRCTC
While announcing the railway budget, Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee also launched a portal for e-ticketing from the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS). The new website may take away half of IRCTC's business but it will remain to be seen whether or not CRIS can come up with an answer and not something worse than IRCTC.
Last year, a catering contract was taken away from the IRCTC, but the biggest blow is the ticketing website.
Rakesh Tandon, managing director at the IRCTC, has said: "This year will be a tough year.
"Catering and e-ticketing have been our main source of income. With a catering business worth Rs 300 crore gone, we are already feeling the pinch. Now, the new portal will cut our share in ticketing too."