More Tatkal tickets will be available for passengers now as the Railways has weeded out several illegal software and arrested 60 agents who would use them to block such tickets, a top official said on Tuesday.
Railway Protection Force (RPF) Director-General Arun Kumar said the software cleansing exercise means Tatkal tickets, which would earlier vanish within minutes of opening of the booking, will now be available for passengers for hours.
Those arrested include a Kolkata-based person with suspected links to Bangladesh-based terror outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JUMB). In January, the RPF DG had said an e-ticketing racket with suspected links to terror-funding and money laundering was busted.
Officials explained on Tuesday that illegal software such as 'ANMS', 'MAC' and 'Jaguar' would bypass the IRCTC's login captcha, booking captcha and bank OTP to generate tickets, while a genuine user has to go through all these processes.
The booking process for a general user usually takes around 2.55 minutes, but those using this software could do it in just around 1.48 minutes, they said.
The Railways does not allow agents to book Tatkal tickets and over the past two months, the RPF has nabbed around 60 illegal agents who were booking tickets through these softwares, making it virtually impossible for others to get Tatkal bookings.
"As of today, I can say that not one ticket is being booked through illegal softwares. We have plugged all the issues that we had with the IRCTC website and also nabbed most of those who were top operators of the softwares," the RPF DG said at a press briefing.
With the arrests, Kumar said most of these illegal softwares, which used to generate business of Rs 50 crore-100 crore annually, have been blocked.
Booking for Tatkal tickets opens 24 hours before the day of travel.
The IRCTC's ticket booking section reflects the impact of the railways action as it shows a jump in the availability of Tatkal tickets across the board.
For example, on October 26, 2019, Tatkal tickets were available for two minutes for the Magadh Express, while for February 10, they were available for over 10 hours after the bookings opened on February 9, 2020.
Similarly, on the Sampoorna Kranti Express, Tatkal tickets were available for a little over four minutes on November 16, 2019, while on February 8, 2020, they were available for 18 minutes.
On the Swatantrata Senani Express, on November 16, 2019, the Tatkal bookings lasted for just a little over two minutes, while on February 8, it lasted for more than an hour.
"This position has been taken from different zones and we have seen that the Tatkal tickets are available for longer. We are still monitoring other softwares which can be used to book tickets and will move on them as and when they try to book tickets illegally," said Kumar.
The RPF DG said that seven people, including a Kolkata-based person who was in touch with Bangladesh-based terror outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, (JUMB) have been arrested in the latest crackdown, on February 8.
"Recently, we arrested seven people including Kolkata-based Jayanta Poddar who was in touch with JUMB operatives," he said.
Among those arrested is one Rajesh Yadav, believed to be the fund manager for the illegal e-ticketing racket who was picked from Mumbai. Another person, Shamsher, who worked for Hamid Ashraf, a Dubai-based man suspected to be one of the masterminds of the racket, was arrested from Lucknow.
Ashraf, however, is still at large.
The DG also said that the RPF has arrested Satyawan Upadhyay, a developer by profession, who built the illegal 'MAC' software for ticket touts.
He further said that the RPF ran a drive against authorised IRCTC agents also on February 11 and 12, and 319 of them were arrested for dubious bookings.
As many as 317 user IDs were identified for blacklisting, he said.