Citizens' Issues
How the railways turned student-friendly, after a crusader’s effort

Decision to accept college IDs by the Indian Railways for students came after persuasion by a passenger

Recently, Moneylife wrote about how 18-year-old Bhadresh Wamja's persistence led to mandatory stock disclosure for fair price in Gujarat (See: 18-year-old's persistence leads to mandatory stock disclosure for fair price shops in Gujarat). He is one of the many aam-admis, who, without any clout, have managed to bring around significant changes in absurd laws that affect our everyday lives.

One such crusader is Gopinath Prabhu, whose intervention on behalf of his fellow railway passengers have made the railway authorities amend their rules to include college IDs in the list of recognised ID proofs required for an e-ticket. Earlier, the railways specified only six government IDs, which most students did not posses and so were frequently harassed and fined for not carrying a valid ID proof against their e-tickets.

Thanks to Mr Prabhu's letters to IRCTC (the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation), the railways took notice of the harassment faced by students carrying e-tickets as a result of these unviable rules. After he wrote to the IRTC, the authorities included college IDs and nationalised bank pass books with a photograph in the list of acceptable IDs, which the students could easily produce.

"I wrote to IRCTC and marked a copy to railway ministers and asked them to suggest a way. How can any student travel on an e-ticket when it almost impossible to get the government IDs? Finally they relented and changed the rule to add up college/school IDs and passbooks of nationalised banks with photograph," Mr Prabhu said. The rule came into effect on 15 June 2010.

Mr Prabhu was travelling to Goa last year, and met a group of students from BITS (Pilani) who where on their way back to college after their holidays. All of these students carried e-tickets. As they were under-age, they did not possess a driving license, voter ID, PAN card or other government IDs. Soon, the ticket checker appeared.

"The TT went on imposing fines on them as they were rendered ticketless as they had none of the ID proofs mandated. This despite they showing their student ID cards, that too from a reputed institute," Mr Prabhu said. In his compartment was a student, who was fined Rs1,000, as he did not have a 'valid' ID with him and was deemed travelling without a ticket. Mr Prabhu and the other passengers requested the ticket checker to accept his college ID, but to no avail.

Then, Mr Prabhu convinced the TT that he would get a general ticket by that afternoon, which can be upgraded. But the TT instructed them to get down at the next station, queue up and then get the ticket from the counter-all within two minutes, the standard time for a train stoppage.

"I requested him to call the station and arrange for a general ticket and that I would pay a bit more for it. But he was too honest a man: he said it's not his job nor was he interested in making money," said Mr Prabhu. Till 8 pm, the student had to provide the excuse that he could not acquire a ticket due to time constraints, though he got down at every station. Finally, after an hour, a coffee vendor came to their rescue and got them a ticket which the TT upgraded.

Mr Prabhu wrote to the IRCTC and the minister then, asking them to provide a viable option for students. After three months, South Western Railway's assistant commercial manager replied to the letter, and said that the desired changes have been made.

"In addition to the existing five Identity cards, it has been decided that the following two proofs of Identity may also be accepted as proof for travelling on e-tickets w.e.f., 15.06.2010: (1) student identity card with photograph issued by recognised school/college for their students, and (2) nationalised bank pass book with photograph," the authorities' reply said.

Mr Prabhu believes that people should be proactive in such issues. "There are thousands of absurd rules like these. It just takes someone to raise it," he said. But, he is waiting to meet the TT again. He said, "I must thank the TTE who opened our eyes. I had promised him that the next time I met him he will see a changed rule."


The mystery of the RAK Carrier: Where was she for the past 40 days?

At 8-9 knots, sailing time from Singapore to Mumbai would not exceed 10 days. The RAK Carrier, now sinking off Mumbai, took 40. Where was she in between?

Time was not too long ago, a ship would go adrift or get stranded in and around Mumbai Port about once every two years, and would then become the focus of all discussion at the Seaman's Club. Now it appears to be a weekly affair, like the "specials" on sale in the Irani Hotel next door, and everybody knows that the special is simply what was not moving so had to be flogged.

The RAK Carrier, an Indonesian flag bulk carrier, is one more example.

About 26 years old, with a history as long as that of any history-sheeter, she sailed out of Singapore on or around the 2nd of May 2011, ostensibly towards Indonesia to load coal for Dahej in Gujarat. She then reappeared off Singapore on the 20th of June 2011, ostensibly loaded, and then sat patiently outside Singapore till the 24th of June. She then sailed out towards India through the Malacca Straits, making good about 8-9 knots, giving an ETA (expected time of arrival) Dahej of 7th of July 2011.

So far so good, but then suddenly on the midnight of 24/25 June 2011, all position reporting seems to have stopped from her AIS (Automatic Identification Signal), including most surprisingly no reports when passing Colombo or making landfall off India, until she arrived off the Port of Mumbai almost a month behind schedule. Down by head, and certainly looking like she was about to go under, conveniently near the only port in India where rescue would not be too much of a problem.

For all we know, the Master decided to go on a short tour of the Indian Ocean through most of the month of July 2011, while the cargo receivers in Dahej waited patiently for their coal. Or something happened to the cargo en route, and after that, it became a very brilliant insurance claim. But why does a ship take almost 40 days to come from Singapore to Mumbai, is the question which people should be asking, and also doing a quick check on what's really in those cargo-holds.

Incidentally, the value of the cargo would have been many times the value of the ship, especially in these depressed days. And the coal would find ready buyers anywhere in the world. But that's unfair to the seafarers who probably fought bad monsoon seas before making it to off Mumbai, too.

However, it is not unknown for ships to go elsewhere, offload cargo, fill holds with ballast water, and then go under. Shipping records are full of such cases.

For example, in the days when trade with a particular African country was "banned", ships would often load oil for, say, West Europe. Along the way, the cargo would be quietly unloaded at a port in that African country, and then the ship and ship-owners would go through all sorts of manipulations to close the voyage. In one glorious case, when a particular ship—on her last legs anyway—was going to be scuttled, the ship sent out a sinking signal and asked for help, and the rescuers found everybody dressed in formals with their suitcases neatly packed.

We are not saying that the RAK Carrier is an elaborate insurance scam. Far from it.

We have said it before, and we say it again—it requires a very simple notice to mariners issued by the DG Shipping in Mumbai addressed to all ships globally when they come anywhere near Indian waters—especially those calling Indian ports. All ships coming into Indian territorial waters must establish identity and purposes. All overage ships (those over 15 years old as per marine conventions) must in addition also provide full details of any and every possible issue including cargo, insurance cover, class and adherence to every possible aspect that makes her seaworthy.

Why would the DG Shipping not do it? This is unknown, but in their 'PAVITra WISDOM', maybe they will do it now?

Information Sources:

1) Information on RAK CARRIER movements sourced from:

2) Information on possible insurance issues—sourced from the grapevine.

(PS: In addition, I just saw some TV clips of the sailors from this ship. They seem to be interestingly very calm and collected. In addition, it appears as though they had the time to save and get along stuff like their laptops and stereos as well as all their documents. This is something strange, the Indian authorities need to hold these seafarers and question them to find out what happened).




6 years ago

Proof, if any was needed, that Indian authorities never learn, because they cannot. It's not a question of not wanting to (for they earnestly wish this kind of thing didn't happen, certainly not so often), it's just that the average level of competence has finally sunk to a point where the men in charge of the nation and its sundry departments have lost the ability to comprehend what's happening, leave alone understand what they need to do. The passengers on SS India do not seem to be aware that their ship is drifting rudderless and what appears like a lot of captains and officers scurrying about officiously is just a charade of the dumb.



In Reply to Java 6 years ago

Thank you for writing in. Yes, you are correct, so some of us have to get off the armchairs and do our jobs.

Here, by the way, is information available off the internet on this shipmand her lack of class.

Please see here under IMO No. 8106745, vessel's previous name SUNNY CARRIER

""Class Withdrawn Owners Request 10th November 2010. TRANSFER OF CLASS

Now, in Panama Maritme Services, I can't find any record of this ship, nor in Lloyds. Ofcourse, I may be mistaken, but friends in shipping are also saying the same.



In Reply to malq 6 years ago

Just my point. What you are doing painstakingly, as a private citizen, could and should have been done easily and quickly by the government, with its vast resources and technology. The fact that it is still somnolent and unable to understand the threat that such flagless ships pose to the country, shows the immeasurably dark depths of the government's incompetence.

K B Patil

6 years ago

For ordinary folks like us, your articles on incidents like these are a great source of information. This article sounds like one written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Mr. Malik is the SHERLOCK HOLMES of India.

In a country like USA, where the head of IMF was immediately arrested, just hours after the crime, I guess many of our so called guardians of our coast would have been thrown behind bars for this gross neglect. Is there any way to initiate action against the bureaucrats responsible?



In Reply to K B Patil 6 years ago

Thank you for writing in. Nothing that I have placed in this articleisor was unknown to the authorities. They choose to ignore it.

Frankly, more resources are sent on guarding the residences and taking the pets of these babus for walks, than on keeping an eye on things.



6 years ago

In addition it is reported that the vessel was "de-classed" by lloyd's register on and as of 10-November-2010, since the deficiencies noted during the previous Annual Inspection were not rectified by the "due date". How this vessel was even permitted to be chartered into India needs to be looked into by the authorities.

Car owners may not get subsidised diesel: Govt

JD-U leader and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav had questioned the government's policy of providing subsidised diesel for consumption by luxury car owners, telecom tower companies, malls and restaurants

New Delhi: With passenger cars consuming about 15% of the diesel, the government today indicated that it might do away with the subsidy enjoyed by such vehicle owners, reports PTI.

"...we can accept your (Opposition) suggestion and try to work out what mechanism could be found out so that this section (diesel car owners) are not subsidised," finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said replying to a debate on price rise in the Lok Sabha.

The government gives a subsidy of Rs6.08 per litre on diesel.

While the prices of petrol are linked to market rates, the government directly and indirectly compensates the oil marketing companies for losses on account of sale of diesel, kerosene and LPG through subsidies and oil bonds.

Under pressure to keep its finances under control the government has already indicated that it was keen on freeing prices of diesel and cooking gas (LPG) but retaining subsidy on kerosene which was used by poor.

In June, while increasing prices of kerosene, diesel and LPG, the government had slashed customs and excise duties on petroleum products to mitigate the impact of price hike on common man. It took a revenue hit of Rs49,000 core per annum.

India imports about 75% of its total crude oil requirement.

Mr Mukherjee said out of total consumption of diesel, 10% is used by industry, 6% by railways, 12% by the agriculture sector and 15% by car owners.

As much as 8% is used for power generation, he said, adding buses and trucks consume 12% and 37% respectively.

Mr Mukherjee said that despite price increase of petroleum products in the recent past, the under-recoveries of state owned oil companies was still around Rs1.22 lakh crore.

JD-U leader and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav had questioned the government's policy of providing subsidised diesel for consumption by luxury car owners, telecom tower companies, malls and restaurants.



Rajiv Chawla

6 years ago

Even though it'll enlarge the hole in my pocket too, I agree that diesel subsidy is surely not meant for high-end cars & SUVs. However, govt should NOT introduce differential pricing system, as it would give additional tool to be misused by many Fuel Station owners and add to corruption and siphoning, as we see in our PDS. The price of diesel should be the same for all.
However, the diesel subsidy can be easily offset by higher Excise Duty on the segment from which govt. wants to withdraw diesel subsidy. Say, an additional Excise Duty of 4% on a diesel car worth Rs. 10 lacs gives Rs.40,000/- upfront extra to the exchequer. This should more than offset the diesel subsidy used by the owner in the lifespan on the vehicle.

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