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IRCTC 8AM Downtime Allows Agents To Book Tatkal Tickets: Reports

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A report from Television channel IBN7 alleges that a daily 4-5 minute down-time 8am for the website for the Indian Railways and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), through with travelers book railway tickets, ensures that touts have exclusivity over emergency tickets. A sting operation conducted by the channel quotes an agent as saying that the they invest Rs 1 lakh a day on bookings, and that touts would use the downtime to book Tatkal tickets. Tatkal tickets are available as an emergency quota, for passengers needing to travel urgently, and are available only two days prior to departure. Typically these tickets get sold out quickly.

This follows another report a couple of days ago, on India Today Online, which said that a gang was “hacking” into IRCTC servers and was generating 10-15 PNR numbers before 8am every morning.

IRCTC facilitates the purchase of highest number of tickets online in India each month – in April 2012, it reported 12.95 million transactions, easily amounting to over $100 million. However, the website is known to have significant technical issues, and down time: we’ve even seen sarcastic tweets from people, celebrating having successfully booked a ticket. News reports have pointed out that Tatkal tickets have “vanished” after the site goes down.

Our Take

– The agents appear to be suggesting to IBN7 that the downtime is intentional, though not explicitly saying that. It’s not clear whether the IRCTC downtime is orchestrated internally, or whether a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is executed every day at the same time on the website, to deny customers the ability to buy tatkal tickets online, or whether there is a loophole in the site’s setup which allows agents hack and book before time (as the India Today report alleges). Remember that IRCTC had said to the Economic Times that they’ve seen a maximum peak of up to 8 lakh concurrent connection during the first 10-15 minutes from 8 o’clock.


If the India Today report is correct, and a gang has been booking tickets tatkal for a couple of years, before the scheduled time, then it’s either case of incompetence or connivance that IRCTC officials haven’t noticed this.

– It’s not that IRCTC hasn’t tried to address “illegal and unethical” practices. In 2010, they had restricted web service agents from booking tickets between 8am and 9am. Last year, ITZ cash had issued notices to travel agents directing them not to set up personal id’s to book tickets, in line with IRCTC norms.

Earlier this year, IRCTC mandated that customers who book tickets via external vendors have to create IRCTC logins, perhaps, we assume, trying to address the issue of agents booking tickets via third party sites.

In the end, it’s a demand-supply issue. The fact that people have to book tickets month in advance, and that there is a mad rush to book tatkal tickets means that the Indian Railways isn’t adequately meeting consumer demand.

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  • Debaroon Gupta

    I guess, IRCTC needs to take a very serious step on the above. Not only the frauds but on the technology too… Just revamping the homepage doesnot do any good.
    IRCTC needs to invest in robust networking.

    Till then we suffer at 8 AM.

  • Your last line takes the cake, and is the sordid truth. All this happens because IR is not competent enough to run trains as per customer needs.

  • Ak

    seriously surprising if all the trains / maximum are full howcome Indian railway is in loss

    & why they are can’t start trains as per requirements

  • Sagar Swapna

    If they hack into the system and book before time then the time stamp in the ticket will show the original booking time. Does anyone has this ticket please bring into light and may post a screenshot here…

  • ShaliniK

    IRCTC though is success as it has made ticket booking really easy and with good customer care…the disadvantage is tatkal booking.Also because of this issue travellers do advance booking for ‘just in case’ making tickets not available to those who need.But yes this has helped IRCTC generating revenue from cancelled tickets and that ‘s huge.
    This really needs to be corrected…no tickets available even three months in advance…

  • Rajesh

    IRCTC should just do a lottery for Tatkal tickets.

  • Anonymous

    IRCTC is stopping passengers from buying tickets, it is as slow as slug most of the times. First thing – you get disconnected 2-3 times while clicking on payment method giving ugly “200” error message, it wastes your first 15 minutes, then you try login again and it simply gives you an error “Sorry, You can not book more than 2 tickets from the same IP in a day between 8am and 9am” without even booking a single ticket. This is happening for last month and nobody is looking it seriously. How can you expect to stop touts selling the tickets