Computers work wonders, but the ticket reservation computers of Indian Railways produce miracles too!

01 DEC 2014

Computers Work Wonders

   Being a frequent online buyer of train tickets, I have observed that – a few hours before the train’s departure time – many hopelessly wait-listed tickets get transformed miraculously into confirmed tickets, within seconds. Since God will not waste precious time on such a mundane matter, it is obviously some human beings who are behind this last-minute transformation and, since I am unable to understand how they make this transformation possible, I consider it to be a man-made miracle. I call it the miracle of wait-listed tickets. When I am able to explain this miracle rationally, I will brand these instantly confirmed tickets as ‘Maggi Wait-Listed Tickets’ – of course with the permission of the makers of the high-speed noodles which are sold under the same name.

3 types of people buy tickets online: the pessimist, the optimist and the realist
There are three kinds of online ticket buyers. There is the pessimist who will never buy a ticket which is wait-listed at anything above No. 5. There is the optimist who will take a chance up to No. 25. The realist – the seasoned traveller who is familiar with the suspiciously temperamental railway reservations software – knows that he will eventually get a confirmed ticket even at No. 55. The third kind is the realist. The realist will often go in for high wait-listed numbers which even the most reckless gambler will not bet on.

I am the realist kind, and I have seldom been denied a confirmed ticket. I may have been at wait list No. 55 until almost the last minute, but when the final chart is prepared I find that the entire waiting list and RAC list ahead of me have cleared and I (plus a few others behind me too) have graduated to confirmed-ticket status.

The realist is a realist because he frequently experiences the everyday miracle of a hopelessly wait-listed train ticket being transformed into a comfortably confirmed ticket in the split second during which the current reservation status displayed on the computer screen is frozen into the final reservation chart. He sees this happen for all trains, at all times, in all divisions of Indian Railways. He knows that the computerised reservation system is the same throughout the country – equally ‘miraculous’ for all.

Take a look at how the ticket booking system works Some people buy tickets on the internet, using the Indian Railways online reservation system. Others buy tickets at railway booking counters, but the clerks at the booking counters use the same Indian Railways online reservation system. Both kinds of tickets – those bought online by individuals and those bought at railway booking counters – simultaneously use the same system, in real time. Both categories of ticket buyers are therefore confirmed or wait-listed on the same list, and a wait-list number is displayed for unconfirmed tickets.

At some fixed time before the train’s departure, a final reservation status chart is printed for display at the railway station. Until that time, you see a small note on your computer screen whenever you check your status, a note which innocently states: Please Note that in case the Final Charts have not been prepared, the Current Status might upgrade or downgrade at a later stage.

Why should the current status in the final reservation status chart differ from the current status on the online reservation system when the print command is given to the computer to print the chart? How can as many as 55 wait-listed tickets get confirmed suddenly, within seconds? One possible reason is VIP Quota tickets, but there cannot be 55 VIPs travelling on short notice! As this happens in second class as well, it is difficult to imagine that so many VIP’s travel second class! Also, ‘ordinary’ passengers sometimes masquerade as VIPs, which cannot happen without the collusion of fairly senior railway staff. (It may be a good idea to restrict last-minute VIP passengers to just before chart preparation.)

How do hopelessly wait-listed train tickets get confirmed miraculously, the moment chart is prepared? Is the computerised system jinxed, or is it fixed by corrupt officials?

The only explanation for the last-minute sprint from wait-listed to confirmed status could be that the computerised reservation system is being manipulated by touts in collusion with a few corrupt people within the system, including the IT department of Indian Railways. It is possible – and routinely rumoured – that touts buy confirmed tickets in bulk in different names and then sell these tickets at a premium to those with genuine wait-listed tickets. Helped by railway insiders, it seems that these crooks even have the ability to manipulate names and other identity details of passengers.

I hope I am proven wrong when I suggest that there is something fishy going on. Any system designer will tell you that such a massive computerised system cannot possibly be so crookedly faulty over an extended period of time, unless the motive behind the system is deliberately crooked.

A system audit of the online reservation system, by an external agency, can quickly plug these loopholes. The touts and their cronies can be easily trapped.

The surprisingly confirmed wait-listed ticket is not a God-sent miracle. It is the outcome of a man-made scam.

One affected indian Bakra/bakri in the service of the people of India.

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1 Comment(s) 3239 views

Mark Says,   2/11/2016 7:47:27 PM