CIC asks MPs to be careful about railway travel

By Sant Kumar Sharma 

Jammu, July 12:

It is not unusual to get the answer “full’’ or “no seat available’’ as one checks with travel agents for going from place A to place B, anywhere across India, in First Class of Railways. On the other hand, when you actually go to the station, and travel by First Class, you find many vacant coupe or berths.

The attendants tell you the inside story that the seats are actually booked in the name of some Member of Parliament (MP) who failed to turn up. Without bothering to cancel the ticket and no passenger can utilise it for travelling. Because nobody can line up at the railway station, and just board a train like that.

The Central Information Commissioner (CIC), in its verdict dated 06.07.2016, in appeal-number CIC/VS/A/2014/001250/BJ, gave speaking orders to Railway officials. The Central Information Commissioner recommended that the Railway Board should take steps to remove any malpractices. That exists in the process of ticket-booking and cancellation by the Parliamentarians.

The commissioner asked the public authority to revisit the present practice being followed and strengthen its systems. To ensure that the larger public interest gets protected, also advising Railway Board Chairman to consider institutionalizing a mechanism in this respect. So that the public is not put to any inconvenience.

Presently, booking is always shown full especially in first-class air-conditioned coaches because Parliamentarians usually make priority multiple reservations without caring to cancel these in case of non-travel. Officials of Railways, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha secretariats also admitted that payment for reserved rail-accommodations of Parliamentarians was made from public-exchequer even in cases of Parliamentarians not actually travelling.

During the CIC-hearing, railway-officials made a shocking revelation of some mischievous elements make multiple bookings in the name of Parliamentarians at times. Even without knowledge of concerned Parliamentarians, reminding of infamous LTC scam involving the facility provided to Parliamentarians.

The Railway Board can incorporate proper system ensuring that Parliamentarians only may be able to make online railway reservations. This will stop and check mischievous elements making multiple/fraud bookings in the name of Parliamentarians.

The Railway Board should adopt a system whereby a travelling Parliamentarian may be required to submit his/her identity proof. Apart from filling a form confirming his/her actual travel at the reserved accommodation. These forms may be submitted to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats while claiming reimbursement.

A copy of such a travel-certificate may also be provided to travelling Parliamentarians for their submitting directly to Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha secretariats. In case of need when railway-authorities may somehow not be able to send these to Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha secretariats.

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats may be required to deduct cost of amounts paid to railway authorities from pay/pensions of concern parliamentarian(s)/ex-parliamentarian(s) for their not travelling on reserved accommodations. Such a system can only make Parliamentarians feel responsibility for cancelling rail-reservations in case of change in travel-plan.