Unusual requests blow lid over EQ scam

Scamsters used fake letterheads of MPs/MLAs; most e-tickets were booked from common IP addresses

It was the usual hectic day for South Central Railway (SCR)’s commercial wing, of trying to accommodate last-minute requests into the express trains through the Emergency Quota (EQ). Despite several trains running with less than the capacity, there are trains on demand like the Telangana Express to New Delhi.

For EQ, there are up to 30 berths in sleeper class, 18 in 3AC, 12 in 2AC and four in first AC with most available in the originating stations or few at major stations en route for long distance trains. These are cleared a day in advance for trains departing before 4 p.m. or on the same day for those departing later.

“Anyone can apply for EQ — passengers with health issues or requiring sudden visits for exam or interview, government officials on duty, public representatives can seek or recommend berths. Depending on hierarchy and availability, these are allotted with random checking done,” explained senior railway officials on Tuesday.

It was during one of these routine checks of applications arriving by drop box at the various offices and in person, they noticed that were unusual requests from MLAs/MPs belonging to Goa, Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala, and other States seeking berths for passengers starting from here!

These were for e-tickets purchased online and for journeys on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Assistant Commercial Manager- Reservation K. Hari Kishore and his team also noticed most of these EQ requests were pertaining to tickets purchased from two or three Internet protocol addresses online over a period of time.

Only six tickets can be purchased online through one email but using the same computer, multiple tickets can be brought using different mail IDs. Aadhaar linked mobile allows up to 12 tickets to be purchased. “Letterheads were official and the recommendations were arriving through one fax number. So we instructed the travelling ticket examiners to verify passengers’ credentials. That’s when we realised something was wrong,” said senior officials.

Checking the Parliament website, they realised majority of slips for EQs were from MPs whose term was over. They reached out to the public representatives directly with trepidation. “It was a delicate task because public representatives may take offence to such inquiries. However, those contacted were gracious and immediately responded to our mails and messages stating no such requests were sent by them in recent months. Letterheads were fake and downloaded from websites,” they explained.

The railway police were alerted and they swung into action to arrest two persons and seized used tickets valued at about ₹1.68 lakh. “We came across fake tickets, impersonations during travel and so on, but it is for the first time arrests were made for making use of EQ through fake recommendations letters,” they added.

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