India

CBI busts Multi Crore Tatkal Ticket Scam, Masterminds Arrested

Akela for BeyondHeadlines

Booking agents procured railway’s software to access IRCTC portal with hundreds of bogus IDs to book tatkal tickets within seconds of availability, and sell them at inflated prices to the public.

If you were wondering why it is so difficult to get tatkal tickets, recent arrests by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may help you get the answers. The CBI has busted a multi-crore railway ticket booking scam with the arrest of four persons, who ran a ticketing business in Wadala.

The accused used over a hundred bogus personal user IDs with the railway’s proprietary software to book confirmed tickets en masse, seconds after bookings would open, depriving genuine commuters of tickets.

A ticket-booking agent is allotted only one user ID, but the accused allegedly accessed the IRCTC portal with simultaneous logins. Cops are trying to ascertain how exactly they procured the software, and the extent of their ill-gotten gains.

 

Ticket booking scam

The accused used over a hundred bogus personal user IDs with the railway’s proprietary software to book confirmed tickets en masse, seconds after bookings would open, depriving genuine commuters of tickets.

The accused, identified as Mehtab Khan, Mehboob Malik, Santaram Yadav alias Pappu and P Naga Kumar, have been booked for cheating and criminal conspiracy. The agency suspects the men have also violated the Information Technology Act, 2000.

While Khan and Pappu were arrested on friday, Malik and Kumar were nabbed on Wednesday. Khan, Malik and Naga Kumar have been remanded to judicial custody till March 15, and Pappu has been remanded to police custody till March 12.

 

System abuse

In the remand application for the accused, Inspector Girish Soni said, “This is a big racket run by the accused persons due to which the general public is deprived of their right to get railway tickets booked under the tatkal scheme. Meanwhile, the accused persons are selling the said railway tickets at exorbitant rates to the public.” To book the tickets, Khan used the software, which is capable of getting the railway system to accept around 10 railway requisition forms simultaneously. He would access the website through his several fake IDs just after bookings opened for the day at 8.00 am. As anyone who has tried to book a tatkal ticket knows, the limited seats are sold out within minutes after the bookings open. With the software, Khan could book multiple tickets in seconds.

A railway source said, “The public has to wait to be able to make reservations, but the railway’s own software does it much faster. If the person in question had access to the software, booking tickets would be a breeze.” At the initial stage of investigations, the CBI is yet to ascertain whether the accused kept the profits made by selling the base price of the tickets, in addition to the inflated rates they sold them at. Sleuths will also look into how the accused managed all user IDs to hack into the system.

According to investigations, Malik supplied the software to Khan and Kumar. He himself acquired the software from Pappu, who in turn had acquired it from Uttar Pradesh-based Salman Ahmed, who is yet to be arrested.

The CBI is now in the process of figuring out how many other ticket agents and travel agencies the software was supplied to.

“The matter is under investigation. We cannot share details at this stage,” said Rishi Raj Singh, joint director of the CBI. Said S V Ingale, chief commercial manager, Central Railway, “No CBI officials have contacted us in this regard. What the accused were doing seems incredible.”

 

Going by the books

The railways periodically issue licenses to booking agents. These agents, called Rail Travel Service Agents, are officially authorised to vend tickets to the public. Another variant of this is the Jan Sadharan Ticket Booking Service agents. These are persons with their own independent stalls who charge a small commission fee for every ticket they book. Both kinds are provided single login IDs to access the system, but Khan and his cohorts had multiple login accounts.

 

TEN SECOND TATKAL

CBI busts multi-crore railway ticket booking scam with the arrest of hackers who used the railway’s own software to book hundreds of tickets in seconds

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has busted a multi-crore railway ticket booking scam with the arrest of four persons who owned a Wadala-based railway ticketing business. The men used over a hundred bogus personal user IDs with the railway’s proprietary software to book confirmed railway tickets seconds before bookings would close.

The accused, identified as Mehtab Khan, Mehboob Malik, Santaram Yadav alias Pappu and P Naga Kumar. The men have all been booked for cheating and criminal conspiracy. The agency suspects the men have also violated the Information Technology Act, 2000.

While Khan and Pappu were arrested yesterday, Malik and Naga Kumar had been nabbed on Wednesday. Among them Mehtab, Mehboob and Naga Kumar have been remanded to judicial custody till March 15 and Santaram has been remanded to police custody till March 12.

 

 THE MODUS OPERANDI

In the remand application for the accused, inspector of police Girish Soni said, “This is a big racket run by the accused persons due to which the general public is deprived of their right to get railway tickets booked under the Tatkal scheme. Meanwhile the accused persons are selling the said railway tickets at exorbitant rates to the public.”

To book the tickets, Khan would use the bogus IDs along with the software. The software was capable of forcing the railway system to accept around 10 railway requisition forms simultaneously. Khan would activate the software just after bookings opened for the day at 8.00 am. As anyone who has tried to book a Tatkal ticket knows, on high-demand trains, limited Tatkal seats are occupied within minutes of bookings opening. But with this software, Khan could book multiple tickets in seconds.

At this initial stage of investigations, the CBI has yet to ascertain whether the men swallowed the entire base price of the ticket, or whether their profit margins were maintained solely by the inflated rates they sold them at.

 

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

According to investigations, Malik supplied the software to Mehtab and Naga Kumar. He himself acquired the software from Pappu, who in turn had acquired it from Uttar Pradesh-based Salman Ahmed, who is yet to be arrested. The CBI is now in the process of figuring out how many other ticket agents and travel agencies the software was supplied to.

The CBI will also look into how the accused were managing all user IDs created by the software and how the men hacked into the IRCTC website.

“The matter is under investigation. We can not share details at this stage,” said Rishi Raj Singh, joint director of the CBI.

 

HOW THE SYSTEM REALLY WORKS

The Railways periodically issue licenses to booking agents. These agents, called ‘Rail Travel Service Agents’ are officially authorized to vend tickets to the public. Another variant of these is the ‘Jan Sadharan Ticket Booking Service’, persons with their own independent stalls who charge a small commission fee for every ticket they book. Both kinds are provided single login IDs to access the system. Khan and his cohorts bypassed the schemes and the limited login accounts provided.

A railway source said, “The public has to wait to be able to make reservations, but the railway’s own software does it much faster. If the person in question had access to the software, booking tickets would be a breeze.”

(Akela is working with MID DAY as Principle Correspondent)

 

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