The Indian Railway Catering And Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a subsidiary of Indian Railways that manages its internet ticketing operations, is looking to officially close distribution of its tickets through agent networks in a move that is expected to impact thousands of small enterprises.
There are more than 100 principle service providers (PSPs) who have been authorised by IRCTC to book tickets, and who further have a network of 300,000 sub-agents, also referred to as retail service providers (RSPs), at present.
IRCTC, via communication to all its B2B PSPs, of which TTG Asia managed to obtain a copy of, has stated that there will be no annual renewals of their contracts and that they will also not be able to create new RSPs.
Jyoti Mayal, president, Travel Agents Association of India, said: “This is a very negative move as booking tickets is a source of income for many travel agents. We already have a restriction on the mark-up fee we can charge on a ticket. Many markets like Europe offer train tickets for travel agents to sell. Also, it brings ease of business to the table.
“With this move, touts who offer (passengers) rail tickets are going to come back. It is a further setback when our businesses are at a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The government should support us.”
Internet and Mobile Association of India has also expressed its disappointment on the proposed move, saying that apart from loss in employment and investment of companies, it will also impact bookings made on IRCTC as “there are people in India who need assistance for booking tickets”.
According to a source in IRCTC, the authorities decided upon the drastic step as a large number of agents were found booking train tickets meant for ‘tatkal’ (tickets Indian Railways offer to travellers with immediate travel plans that are released a day prior to the departure date) through fake e-mail addresses and mobile numbers using illegal software. Agents are unable to book tatkal tickets within the first 15 minutes when the window for the bookings open. However, these illegal software available in the market help agents to overcome such restrictions.