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Ticket collectors are of two types: Station Ticket Collector who is posted at a particular station and the other, called section squad, who switches from one place to another. It could be Guindy station one day, and Tambaram another day. Lady squads are assigned ladies compartments. Based on the factor of mobility, a station ticket collector is set a monthly target of Rs.12,000 a month and a section squad, Rs.35,000.
Beyond the regular hierarchy, stands a one-man squad who can swoop down on any station. Given this leeway, more is expected of him. He has to rake in Rs. 75,000 a month.
An official, on condition of anonymity, said, “The penalty for not purchasing a ticket is Rs. 250 plus the class-based fare. If a commuter travels first-class with a second class ticket, he is obliged to pay the remaining amount. And he will be issued a strict warning.”
In the case of season ticket-holders forgetting to bring their passes, the squads use their discretion to penalise them or let them off with a warning. A few squads will take their ID cards and ask them to bring the amount the next day.
According to the rule-book, ticketless travellers should be produced in the RPF court. But it is practically impossible. “Those detained at the station have to be given food. That means expenditure. Hence, most often, we will let them go with a strict warning after collecting whatever they have and asking them to bring the rest of the fine money the next day,” an official said.
When asked about the most persistent offenders, ticket collectors point to vendors. Said the official, “Besides travelling ticketless, most of them flout a major rule: not to sell any goods on the train.” Probably, they subscribe to Cho’s view on railway tickets.