One would have thought Indian Railways are as eager as our honourable prime minister, Narendra Modi, to usher in ‘digital India’. But the fact is otherwise. Let me illustrate:
Recently, I travelled from Bengaluru to Palakkad and back. While I had confirmed reservation for my onward journey, my return journey was waitlisted as PQWL3 (pooled quota waiting list). On the date of the return journey, i.e., 8 December 2015, I was still waitlisted at number 3. However, I boarded the train and was asked by the TTE (travelling ticket examiner) to wait in the 3A (three-tier air-conditioned sleeper) compartment until he checked the availability of berths. After about an hour or so, he came to me and asked for my ticket.
When I told him that I had booked my ticket online and showed him the confirmatory message on my mobile phone, he told me that it was no more valid, since it had already been automatically cancelled by the ticketing system. He said only for those who have booked tickets manually from the ticket counters, would the waitlist be applicable. Not only that, but he also asked me to disembark from the train at the next station as I was, technically, a ticket-less traveller. I protested that even after the chart was prepared, when I had checked online, my ticket was still shown as WL3. The TTE showed me the hard copy of the chart and my name was not included even in the waiting list that he had. The reason for this, he explained, was that after preparing final chart at the commencement of the train’s journey, all unconfirmed (or waitlisted) online tickets get automatically cancelled by the system and the money would be refunded through the corresponding payment portal.
If the online waitlisted passengers are allowed to travel, the railways have no means to recover the fare as it is already refunded. He then proceeded to give the available berth to another wait-listed passenger, who had booked the ticket from the railway counter.
Here I would like to point out following:
a) I remember, on earlier occasions, I was given confirmed berths on the basis of tickets booked online.
b) The new procedure is putting those who book tickets online at a disadvantage. This, in turn, will lead to more people opting to book tickets from railway reservation counters. This is against the avowed goal of the railways, and indeed that of the government of India, which wants to make digital access more universal.
This particular TTE, in fact, agreed with this point.
My suggestion to the railways is to discontinue this procedure.
Instead of automatic cancellation of unconfirmed online reservations at the time of chart preparation, they should include these online bookings also in the physical chart given to the TTE. If the TTE gives confirmed berth to any such ticket-holder, it should be updated in the system the next day and only after that, they should cancel unconfirmed tickets and refund the amount.
Alternatively, the passengers themselves should be asked to claim the refund via the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) portal, as was the case earlier.
This procedure used to work without any problem and I wonder why this was changed. Is it to save extra work for the railway staff (as there will be no need to update on the next day)? If so, it is at the cost of hapless passengers who put their trust on the online reservation system!
BV Krishnan, by email
MISSED OUT SOME FINER POINTS!
The Cover Story on Fixed Income (Moneylife, Issue 24 December 2015) is obviously a well-researched piece. But I feel that Jason Monteiro has missed out some of the finer points on some recent developments in this space. He has argued that 10-year G-Sec yield movement in the past 10 months has been ‘sideways’. But the reality has been that the yield has actually strengthened after the 50bps (basis points) rate cut from Reserve Bank of India. There has been no explanation for this. The cause of this anomaly seems to be the supply-demand equation; this factor fails to get attention in the article which focuses only on a simple reasoning of the timeline involved in impact of the rate cut on the yield.
Balaji Balagopalakrishnan, by email
Jason Monteiro replies: Thank you for your feedback. For any market-linked security, the price is determined by demand and supply of the securities. Specifically, this equation is influenced by the level and changes in interest rates, macro-economic factors and developments in other markets—money, foreign exchange, credit and capital markets.
We have kept the Cover Story simple and focused on the main factors (interest rates and demand from foreign institutional investors) which influence yields over a longer period and which retail investors can keep a track of. From the beginning of 2015, the yields have declined by just about 13bps—from 7.88% to 7.75% on 23 December 2015. Yes, over this period, the benchmark yield has moved between 7.50% and 8%; this volatility is defined by supply and demand.
INADEQUATE COMMUNICATION BY THE DOCTOR
This is with regard to “Diagnosing Medical Negligence” by Prof BM Hegde. As a physician, I agree with Dr Hegde. This article describes the problems in making a diagnosis and assuring optimal treatment. I feel, the main problem is inadequate communication by the doctor. Doctors either do not wish to spend the time to explain to patients or lack the skill to do so.
If the problem is the former, it could be rectified by having a well-trained nurse or physician assistant who can decode the cryptic doctor’s notes and give enough time to the patient to ask questions, suggest resources to get better informed and be available to answer doubts that may arise after the patient has left the clinic/hospital. A second opinion is valuable only if the referring physician has no conflict of interest with the second physician. I am afraid that the only way to force the doctors and hospitals to change their behaviour is through litigation. And, yes, this will hurt the honest doctors but that is unavoidable.
Meenal Mamdani, online comment
This is with regard to “Buying Tech Devices” by Yogesh Sapkale. The most important factor while buying a smartphone is its CPU (central processing unit) architecture. Always check the CPU architecture type either on Google or specific sites such as GSMArena. An example of architecture: ARM A6, A9, A15, etc. The higher the number, the better the performance and the more expensive the phone. For any comparison, use Google. A 2GB RAM on A9 will be much better than a 3GB RAM on A6 type. Lastly, if you are not into technically modifying your phone, ensure that you buy a phone which has at least 4GB of system reserved memory (this is unavailable to you for your use). Of course, RAM is important.
This is with regard to “Taking Stock of 2015 Preparing for 2016” by Sucheta Dalal. Moneylife has been doing commendable work in creating awareness among savers and investors not only about their rights and possible precautions they can take while making investment decisions, but also in helping those whose decisions subsequently turn out to be wrong because of inadequate pre-investment study or the institutions in which money was invested. Moneylife has also been encouraging investors to share their good and bad experiences with banks and other financial institutions.
I am not aware of any other organisation engaged in educating savers and confronting institutions, including regulatory bodies, when they do not play their mandated roles or play them inefficiently. It is in this context that one should view the observations on transparency and accountability here. Because of our pre-independence legacy, our civil and criminal statutes, including those applicable to the financial sector, have provisions which insulate the rich and the powerful from punishment, or at least help them in getting the final punishment delayed. A section of the media also plays into the hands of the rich and the powerful by blacking out the names of celebrities and the rich when they are involved in unethical practices. In such situations, the presence of institutions like Moneylife is comforting to the victims.