How to get refund from Indian Railways?

You can easily get refund of a train ticket bought through the Railways passenger reservation system or PRS, either online or through a  ticket window. There may be some delay in refund for tickets bought from private re-sellers

If there is one technology based product in India, which showcases domestic Indian skillsets as well as has a history of being able to very deftly and adroitly avoid falling into the trap of lop-sided foreign solutions, then it has to be the Indian Railway's Passenger Reservation System, or PRS for short. Handling between 1.5 to 2.25 million separate transactions per day, each transaction being for anything from one to six passengers, covering over 2,500 trains with over 50 different classes of travel and no count on quotas, concessions and more - the PRS has set a benchmark all over the world, which some of us who have worked on databases as well as other technologies can only begin to understand.

But surely do we appreciate and feel proud of as Indians. Just imagine the complexities? I wish Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Aadhaar had been handed over to Indian Railways, it would not have been the mess it is now, and the information would have stayed on in India.

That it gets stick from a variety of segments, from passengers to competitors to simply jealous entities, is par for the course when something is Indian and successful. Especially from Indians, and very especially from ex-pat Indian origin types, sadly, but true. Very bluntly, I do wish the Indian Railways would take time out to propagate this one aspect of technology, if for not only blowing their own bugle, but then also to be able to build some self-confidence in millions of other Indians who are daily subjected to all sorts of perception management tricks on forcing Indians to believe that they can not compete with the world.

Having said that, there are multiple problems faced by people using the PRS, not all of which are the fault of the service provider Indian Railways. Fact remains, things have only become better, and given the pace of lack of change mostly elsewhere, this is like being able to send a manned space mission to Mars from India.

Which does not in any way reduce the reality that yes, many people appear to and do have problems when seeking refunds, though here again, Indian railways score better than most other cash-handling utilities and services in India. Try getting a refund from an airline, for example? Also, for the 700-1000 million transactions per annum, refunds are a very small number.

Still, you bought a ticket, and now want a refund?

Obviously, when the numbers are so vast, this is not going to happen without checks and balances. We are assuming here that you want a refund in most cases for cancellations done well before departure time, at least four-six hours. What happens, then, when you need a refund for a railway ticket bought using the PRS?

1) Ticket bought for cash over the counter - refund is as fast as the queue will permit, subject to the complex rules regarding cancellation of refunds. It is good to learn about the rules before heading for a refund. They can be found written on the wall, in time-tables, and online.

2) Ticket bought online from IRCTC - My experience has been that for dozens of bookings a year, and about half of them resulting in cancellations, I have not had a single bad experience. Few times that there was some confusion, due to missing a train or other issues, there was nothing that a couple of emails did not resolve. Every paisa paid online is refunded, subjected to the rules prevailing - including service tax refunds.

3) Tickets bought through other private websites - These are the complicated and troublesome episodes, because here we have additional rules and fine print from the private website. I will be very frank, but the fine print with these private websites appears to keep changing all the time, and there is not much that an external agency can do to help since these terms and conditions are seldom available in printed hard copy form anywhere.

Which, in a way, is the solution we would expect from Indian Railways too - that they incorporate terms and conditions from private re-sellers on Indian Railways pages, both online and hard-copy. And that these terms and conditions, especially for refunds, be changed only after due information to the Indian Railways.

At the end of the day, I, as a railway passenger, am a customer of the primary vendor, Indian Railways. Any problems created and not resolved by their intermediaries with us as customers will only reflect badly on them.

And that is why many of us appear to blame Indian Railways when the real issue often lies with other vendors or providers. From crowds outside railway stations to sanitation to food to ticket refunds.

Clarity and accountability set by Indian Railways for all issues pertaining to PRS would be of great help not just for customers but also for the name and fame of Indian Railways too.

PS: What about refunds for tickets unused because of missed trains and connections?

Fear not, Indian Railways have pre-empted pretty much every contingency here, and from "Ticket Deposit Receipt" system both online and across the counter, to writing a letter, there is a rule and there is a refund. Look for it, send an email, ask around - and it will happen. Some extreme cases that I have resolved in my own experience include -

# child chewing up tickets before boarding the train.
# child floating the ticket away as "boat" in water gutter near platform.
# fell asleep on platform bench and train departed without me.
# whole group of school-children penalised for misspelling names.

There are good human beings at Indian Railways, it is just that they expect you to take some time out to read and understand their rules and regulations, too. Fair enough?

(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.)

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    Tauseef Saiyad

    2 years ago

    Ticket was not confirmed and money deduct from account, i have mailed 15 times calls more than 30 times and for one reply wait for 24 hours every time still no refund what to do in this ?

    Bhupinder Narang

    2 years ago

    Tickets not confirmed but money debited from my account how it refund

    Chinmai Hemani

    4 years ago

    Last month I had my Rajdhani from Delhi to Ahmedabad on 27th August and that train got cancelled due to riots in gujarat. All I got was an SMS an hour before the departure of the train that the train has been cancelled due to riots and there was no mention of the procedure of claim. I had hard copy of the ticket and Since I was on field tours since then I travelled from Jaipur to Mumbai and Pune due to consecutive work reasons. Because of consecutive travel I was not able to visit station for TDR. It was only on visit station at Mumbai on 4th September which was an application (within the 10th day of claiming refund) to seek my refund I was told that since my case is genuine I need to do registered Ad to the claims and refunds department at Western railway headquarter churchgate station, which I was told will look into my genuine case of complaint. Now, yesterday I got reply from the Claims department Churchgate station that since I have not filed TDR in 3 days I am not eligible for any form of refund. Had it been eticket I would have been refunded totally. Also since there was no mention of refund and application of TDR on 3 days in their sms or any update on cancellation of train due to their reasons and not me not travelling. What should be done? Kindly Suggest.

    Nagesh Kini

    5 years ago

    Thanks Veeresh for the rail traveller friendly information.

    I was perhaps the first and only one to sue Indian Airlines for refund of a lost ticket. IAC lost at the Consumer Forum District and State levels yet took the matter to the National level. I had already been refunded on the first level.

    Deepak Agrawal

    5 years ago

    I recently filed a tdr for a tatkal ticket for a train that was delayed by 13 hrs. I got two emails over the next 4 days giving tel numbers and an email to contact if I had any queries. Emails sent to the given email id bounces back. The given numbers 011-39340000, 011-32976609 do not work. Try dialing them and sending email to [email protected].


    5 years ago

    My friend tried to book a train ticket through a "private re-seller" online. Though the amount was debited from his bank account he has received an immediate message that the booking could not be made. The message further stated that "This may happen due to change in availability position, momentary communication problem with IRCTC or Indian Railway Passenger Reservation System or a technical system error. We apologize for the inconvenience caused in this regard".

    Subsequently he has received SMS message from the "private re-seller" stating that the refund amount has been processed. It further said “Amount in your account will reflect in up to 3 working days in case your issuer bank is private or SBI, else may take up to 12 working days in case of other nationalized banks or your next billing circle. We unfortunately have no influence over these timescales. Thank you".

    Is this delay justified?

    Who is responsible for the delay -'Private re-seller', Railways or Banks?

    Is he eligible for interest on refund?

    The Indian Flag flies alongside Japan’s at Okayama conference. PMC officials say junket was 'private’.
    Never mind the recent furore over official foreign tours by MLAs from Karnataka and Goa, An RTI reveals that Pune’s councillors and officials went on a Japan trip, flouting FCRA norms and model code of conduct. Unfazed, they are contemplating a trip to Indonesia as well

    Seventeen officials and corporators of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), led by Pune’s Mayor, Chanchala Korde, conducted a supposedly `private’ tour to Japan between May 24 and May 30. On returning, they hurriedly passed a Standing Commitee resolution (with an approving nod from each and every political party, without exception) for the construction of a fancy 22 km Light Rail Transit (LRT) project from Shivajinagar to Hinjewadi. 
    This is allegedly in return for the hospitality extended to them by a Japanese private company called Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA). The PMC, however, insists that the trip was a private affair. The genesis of this entire episode is in a survey conducted by Toshiba, another Japanese company, two years back for an LRT in Pune, and funded by JICA; the latter is allegedly now all set to clinch the deal for constructing the project.  

    Shockingly, the route chosen is also part of the Pune Metro route, but it doesn't seem like anyone cares, as long as the politicians and officials get a free junket and perhaps something more. Scandalous information procured by RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, who seems to always smell out the rat in every action of the civic body, exposes the `private’ visit theory as a ruse. What is curious, is that a `stranger’ also accompanied the Indian officials on this trip, who is neither a corporator nor a PMC official. PMC refuses to reveal his name.

    Besides quickly deciding upon a public project on their return, photographs show national flags of both the parties in the discussions on the table during the conference at Okayama. Which means, the discussion was between the two cities/countries was held in an official capacity. If so, then as per Section 6 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010, it is mandatory for every government official and member of any political party to file an online application to the FCRA for prior permission. The rule states: “no member of a Legislature or office bearer of a political party or Judge or Government servant or employee of any Corporation or  any other body owned or controlled by the Government shall, while visiting any country or territory outside India, accept, except with the prior permission of the Central Government, any foreign hospitality.” The PMC has not been able to give the required information under RTI and has the arrogance to continue suppressing this vital information.

    Also, as per Section 4 of the RTI Act, it is mandatory for the PMC to put up in the public domain, all correspondence/proposals/decisions before commencement of the tour. PMC is keeping mum on this issue and as Kumbhar points out, there can be four theories explaining this trip: “1) Since no official permission was taken from the FCRA, this tour has proved to be illegal. 2) The tour was completely sponsored by the Japanese private company, JICA and was essentially private, but its outcome was the  launch of a public transport system. 3) Perhaps they wanted it to be a private tour but would have faced hurdles getting visas, so they made it an official tour, although JICA may have allegedly sponsored it. 4) Or lastly, since the tour was conducted when the model code of conduct was in force, it stands null and void.’’
    Kumbhar has demanded that all information pertaining to this trip be put on the PMC website, because it involves public interest if a public transport system is being executed as a consequence of the trip.

    The PMC has time and again flouted all norms, even court decisions, and refused RTI information. It is worth considering, why Municipal Commissioner Vikas Deshmukh and all other political party heads have been silent about this trip?

    For any politician or government babu, the following rules apply without exception:
    1. As per Section 6 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010, no member of a Legislature or office bearer of a political party or Judge or Government servant or employee of any Corporation or any other body owned or controlled by the Government shall, while visiting any country or territory outside India, accept, except with the prior permission of the Central Government, any foreign hospitality
    2. Currently, the applications for grant of prior permission for accepting foreign hospitality have to be submitted in the form of hard copies along with the forwarding/recommendation letter of the concerned Ministry/Department, signed copy of the online FC-2 form and the invitation letter from the host or the host country. 
    3. To streamline the procedure, it has been decided that applications in respect of Government servants and employees of Corporations or any other body owned or controlled by the Government, shall be accepted on the online system only. The online system is at
    4. Therefore, along with filing the online application form (FC-2  Form), the following documents should be scanned and uploaded:
    1. Invitation letter from the host organization or country. 
    2.  Administrative clearance of the concerned Ministry or Department of the Government (clearly mentioning the date, venue and purpose of the visit along with nature of visit i.e. official or personal) 
    3. The signed application Form (FC-2 form).  With the submission and uploading of these documents into the online system, an acknowledgement of the complete application.
    5. Online submission of the applications for grant of prior permission for accepting foreign hospitality in respect of Government servants and employees of Corporations or any other body owned or controlled by the Government will be optional up to 30.09.2013. From 01.10.2013 onwards, applications in hard copies will not be accepted. 
    6. Applications in respect of Members of Legislature or office bearers of political parties or Judges, may be submitted online as per procedure outlined in point number 3 above, or in hard copy. Both forms of submission will continue to be accepted for the time being.

    7. Any suggestions and queries may kindly be sent by e-mail to ds-fcra® and for any problems in filing online application an email  may be sent to clsharmaanicin.

    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) 
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    Peter Mckenyz

    5 years ago

    We all respect the Indian National Flag as it represents our Country, yet many cases come into the sight where it gets insulted intentionally as well as non intentionally. Recently another such case is got into the sight at Commonwealth Games.

    Why is it naïve to expect Switzerland to co-operate on black money?
    Switzerland is very clear on the secrecy of bank accounts and the best example of this is the Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FATCA) agreement signed by the US with Switzerland

    For once it looked like that the black money problem of India had been solved, as far as Switzerland is concerned. Couple of days ago, media reports spoke about how the Swiss government had prepared a list of Indians suspected to have stashed black money in Swiss banks. There was also a mention of the details being shared with the Indian government. This news hogged the headlines till a denial came from the Government of India and also from Switzerland. Mr. Arun Jaitley said New Delhi had not received any official communication from Switzerland but was hopeful that cooperation between the two countries would bear results.
    On the other hand, Mario Tuor, spokesman, Swiss Federal Department of Finance, while speaking to a leading daily in UK, expressed surprise at reports in the Indian media about Switzerland preparing a list of Indians suspected of having untaxed funds in Swiss banks, saying the last meeting between the two sides on the issue was held in New Delhi in February and that there had been no developments since then.
    Now that the dust seems to have settled on the issue, the age old question has been revived, on the process of obtaining bank account information from Switzerland. For those who believe that a change of government at the center, or a tough stand by the government in New Delhi, will work wonders as far as getting black money information from Switzerland is concerned, are  being naïve. Switzerland is very clear on the secrecy of bank accounts and the best example of this is the Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FATCA) agreement signed by the US with Switzerland. It is important to note, that FATCA is intended to detect "US persons" who are evading US tax, using financial accounts held outside the United States. Under FATCA, non-US financial institutions would be required to report relevant information to the American tax authorities, specifically the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), about financial accounts held by identified Americans. This is something which India has sought as a country, but has failed to achieve.
    Switzerland and FATCA:  While Switzerland has signed FATCA with USA, the details of accounts held by Americans in Swiss banks have to undergo various processes before it is reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the USA. The steps of reporting accounts to USA are going to be as follows:
    1. Banks in Switzerland will send a letter to the Americans holding accounts in Swiss banks, seeking their consent to report account details to the IRS. This means, without consent, no account will be reported to USA.
    2. If account holders don’t give their consent to share account details with USA, the account will be considered non-consenting USA account. The bank will be legally obliged to report the quantity of the accounts and the total amount on all “Non-Consenting US Accounts” by the end of January, 2015, without mentioning the identity of the clients concerned.
    3. Based upon this information and in accordance with the FATCA agreement, the IRS has the ability to submit a group request for administrative assistance regarding the “Non Consenting US Accounts” to the competent Swiss authority. This means that IRS is asking for account level details.
    4. After a request from the IRS is received, the Federal Tax Administration (FTA) will publish the details of the group request in the Swiss Gazette, which will be anonymous. Account holders can check with their bank if their name is part of this group details notification. The account holder will have the right to counter the disclosure and the FTA will decide if the details need to be shared or not, which will again be published as a group request.
    5. Even after FTA has finalised the details to be shared with USA, a bank customer will have the right to appeal to the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (FAC). The decision of FAC will be final in this regard.
    The process prescribed under FATCA for sharing of information is very cumbersome and shows that Swiss authorities want to protect the privacy of bank account holders. While this kind of process has been set up with USA, it can only be expected that Swiss authorities won’t share relevant information with India easily, especially since there is no FATCA like agreement with India.
    While FATCA is just one example, the most important point to note here is, that Swiss law entrenched bank secrecy in 1934, making it a criminal offense to reveal a client's identity. Switzerland over a period of time has become a major tax haven and had around $2.1 trillion in deposits, or 27%, of worldwide offshore wealth according to the Boston Consulting Group. In view of the approach followed by Switzerland and regulations prevailing in the country, it is indeed difficult for India to obtain details from USA. Lots of deliberation and persuasion may be required and the outcome may still be unpredictable. 
    (Vivek Sharma has worked for 17 years in the stock market, debt market and banking. He is a post graduate in Economics and MBA in Finance. He writes on personal finance and economics and is invited as an expert on personal finance shows.)
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