The duo had been booking tickets under the education tour concession scheme and reselling them to institutions at a high margin
An alert raised by a representative of an educational institution helped a special team of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) nab two touts on Friday.
The duo had been booking tickets in bulk under the education tour concession scheme of the railways and reselling them to educational institutions in the city at a high margin.
Railway sources said L. Thomas (55) and his employer, A. Benett (44), owner of Trinity Tours and Travels Private Limited in Purasawalkam, had been selling tickets to various schools and colleges for their educational tours.
On Friday, around 1 p.m., Thomas had come to the bulk booking counter at the MMC-Chennai Central railway station to book around 100 tickets. The RPF received an alert from a representative of an educational institution who had been affected by the duo’s scam. A team maintained a watch at the counter and apprehended Thomas. They then went to the office in Purasawalkam, but Benett had escaped.
A total of 133 tickets, worth around Rs. 1.37 lakh, for various destinations including Bangalore, Pune, Mysore, Ernakulam, Mumbai CST and Darjeeling were seized from Thomas as well as the office.
“This is the first time we have nabbed touts profiting by using the scheme. It is impossible to book such a large number of tickets without the help of officials at the bulk counter. We are investigating,” said J. Ajith Kumar, inspector, RPF (MMC).
A case under section 143 (1) (a) of the Railway Act, 1989, was registered against the duo for procuring and selling railway tickets for unauthorised business. The penalty comprises two years of imprisonment and a fine.
Under the scheme, students get 50 per cent concession on ticket cost and for every 10 students, one escort (teacher) can accompany them. Railway sources said, as per norms, representatives from educational institutions are required to get a prescribed form from the senior divisional commercial manager of the Chennai division at the Southern Railway’s headquarters.
Subsequently, with a letter from the head of the institution, tickets have to be purchased only by the representative sent by the institution from the chief reservation supervisor at the MMC-Chennai Central railway station.
However, railway and police sources said, in almost all cases, touts, in association with a few railway staff at the reservation counters, book tickets on behalf of the educational institutions and later sell the tickets to them at a high margin.
For every bulk booking, the touts are usually paid at least 30 per cent of the total cost depending upon the length of travel. “Many touts also approach educational institutions with such tickets and also offer special packages including boarding and lodging, as well as logistics,” said a railway official.