The railway administration has stopped all bookings by authorised ticketing agents — that is, Rail Travelers Service Agents (RTSA) — and asked them to approach the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). The administration has even banned the entry of agents into the computerised reservation centres. The agents are now resting their hopes on the new railway minister and plan to approach court as the last resort.
Ladharam Nagwani, a member of the BJP's national executive committee, said that RTSAs were appointed after a Supreme Court ruling in 1985, and there are around 1,265 such agents across the country. "Each of these agents cater to around 500-600 passengers per day, and as many as 25,000 to 30,000 employees are working for these authorised agents across the country. More importantly, in Mumbai alone there are around 72 agents and they book tickets for 60,000 passengers per day in the city, doing a service to those who are unable to stand in the queue and book their tickets. The RTSAs have separate counters at all the Computerised Reservation Centres. Suddenly, about two days ago, they tell us that we have to shut shop and approach the IRCTC," said Nagwani.
"This is completely unacceptable; there are several complaints against the IRCTC and its agents. How can they tell us to approach the IRCTC when it has problems with its software. The IRCTC came up with its own agents in 2007. But the railway administration should not have changed its policy suddenly, when a new government is taking over the reins of the railway administration," he said.
According to Nagwani, the Central Railway earns around 15 lakh through the authorised agents, while the Western Railway earns around Rs8 lakh per day and it is losing out on this income because of the ban on RTSAs.
"We have approached the Railway administration, but nobody is giving us any valid explanation on the reasons for the ban. Even the chairman of the Railway Board is out of the country. We are resting our hopes on the new railway minister and the last option would be the courts," said Nagwani.
An official has claimed that the RTSA agent system has been rendered redundant by online booking while Railway Board Member (Traffic) DP Pande said "The scheme has been discontinued some time back and the agents had moved the court too. It is just that the zonal railways are implementing it now."