It is not only fare that passengers pay but many other things they are to pay for a journey may entail many complications more serious than paying the simple fare.
I am a veteran railway passenger. I remember that in the past, since how long years that past was changed to the present regime is not known to me, if someone extended his journey and it was permitted while travelling for a long distance, the fare for extended portion of the journey would be at the telescopic rate making it cheaper than what otherwise one needed to pay at the counter. Such extensions has to be justified and need based. But, other than necessity, who would extend his journey deviating from his original plan? The TTE charges for the extension in the running train.
Here is the story of how I was charged unreasonably for extending my journey while travelling from Guntur to Sullurpet:
I am a poet and author settled in Pondicherry. After attending a literary conference at Guntur I was coming back on December 13, 2012 from there by Chennai Express (Tr. No. 12604). The ticket was booked on August 20, 12. My travel ticket was up to Sullurpet but the person to receive and accompany me there would not be ready, I was told on the day before my journey, so I decided to extend my journey up to its last destination, Chennai which happens to be the next station.
The train started from Guntur after 11 pm and the light of our compartment consisting of four berths (7-10) in 2A class of Coach No. A1 was off as the tubes were out of order. It was dark. With much difficulty using my torch I could somehow settle in my berth as all others were deeply asleep. This was immediately brought to the notice of the Ticket Examiner but the light was not restored till it reached the destination of the train.
However, I requested him to extend my journey up to Chennai. He charged vide Excess Fare Ticket No. No. 0655376 dated December 13, 2012 Rs.580. I had paid Rs.450 for my journey from Guntur to Sullurpet covering a distance of 342 km whereas distance from Sullurpet to Chennai was only 83 km. Chennai was the next station to Sullurpet and there was no booking for the same berth for a journey to the next station, meaning that it would go vacant had I not extended my journey. I explained this to him but to no effect as he confirmed that it was the rule applying minimum fare and I must pay. I paid for I had no other way to discuss with anybody at the dead of the night.
In my message to the Director, Public Grievance, Chennai I asked, inter alia, if it was not fallacious to charge for a journey of 83 km (one station) Rs.580 whereas Rs.450 was charged for a journey of 342 km in the same train and the same class. Was it not Indian Railway’s duty to help passengers in so extending the journey when urgently needed or should he be penalized? If it was the minimum how Rs.450 was charged earlier? I comprehend that either there was a misconception of the rules or its misapplication by the TTE. I requested for their kind reconsideration of all the points in my letter and for refunding me the amount charged in excess of what was due to be paid.
My email message was immediately forwarded to the South Central Railway by them as the appropriate authority to reply me. But there was no reply in spite of my reminder to them. From time to time I wrote to the other higher authorities of the Railway and others. On April 7, 2013 I wrote to the Cabinet Secretariat in charge of Public Grievance which was replied on April 29, 2013 stating that my grievance was forwarded to the Chairman, Railway Board as he was the competent authority.
Some of the addressees to whom I sent message did not reply, somewhere my message was returned undelivered by the internet as unaccepted. My effort to communicate to the grievance redressal cell of the President of India’s office failed. I wrote to the Chairman Railway Board on May 17, 2013. I received a reply from the same South Central Railway to whom my message was forwarded in 2012 by the Director of Public Grievance. However, ignoring my original complaint the South Central Railway showed my complaint as on April 7, 2013, the date on which I addressed it to the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.
They have given the verdict that the charges made were accurate as the minimum charges for any extension is for 300 km for which the fare is Rs.519. Rs.40 was added to it as safety charge and Rs.20 as service tax. Though the total was full Rs.579 (without any fraction to the decimal point) it was further rounded up to make it Rs.580.
I hope the readers understand the hazards of extending the journey even if on reasonable ground and the hefty penalty that one will be compelled to pay though we are given to understand that the Indian Railway is customer friendly organization as its customers are mainly people of the country.
But the dispute does not end here. I put the question, kindly consider:
If the minimum fare for the class I travelled (2 A.C.) was Rs.519 for 300 km. how Rs.450 was charged for a distance of 342 km. (which included service charge to the IRCTC, the booking agent)? Is it justified? Will the Railway not reply this? Why the South Central Railway did not give a reply till I had to go step by step up to the Cabinet Secretary and the Chairman, Railway Board? Why have they ignored the complaint about the absence of light in the compartment? Will charging exorbitant amount from the passenger absolve a railway employee of his responsibilities?