Times of India: Nagpur: Saturday, April 01, 2017.
Even as it is difficult to draw a conclusion about how demonetisation may have hit the Indian Railways, an RTI query reveals that though Nagpur Central Railway witnessed more cancellation of tickets post-demonetisation, the chunk of refund was less as compared to same period last year.
It was assumed that Central Railway's revenue must have been hit and huge amount must have been refunded during the three months November and December 2016 and January 2017 after the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were demonetised on November 8, 2016. However, it was not the case.
The reply received from the Central Railway, to an application filed by RTI activist Abhay Kolarkar, states that during November and December 2016 and January 2017, the period during which information was sought, the Central Railway refunded Rs 26.92 crore towards cancellation of tickets by 2.62 lakh passengers.
Immediately after the noteban, a large number of people, including travel agents, rushed to railway station counters in Nagpur to book wait-listed tickets in higher classes so as to get rid of demonetised notes.
"A maximum of six persons can book berths as per the requisition form. People panicked and filled up the entire quota, that too for to-and-fro journeys to faraway destinations in AC coaches. These bookings were done to get wait-listed tickets so that it can be cancelled later and get refund in new notes," says Kolarkar, who filed the RTI query.
Senior divisional commercial manager (SrDCM) KK Mishra says demonetisation may be one of the reasons for huge refunds but it cannot be the sole reason as when the Railway Board realized the "modus operandi" of some of the ingenious people, it immediately put restrictions on the refund process.
"I don't think note ban has much to do with huge refunds. If you compare the three months (2015-16) figures, we refunded Rs 31.18 crore, which is Rs 4.26 crore more than the post-demonetisation period. It was because of restrictions by the Railway Board on limited cash refunds," said Mishra.
Kolarkar said noteban may be the cause. If a month-wise comparison of cancellation of tickets by passengers is made for three months post-noteban, then it is found that in November and December 2016 and January 2017 alone, over 3.76 lakh passengers cancelled tickets. "This must have happened owing to the noteban as those who booked tickets with old notes cancelled tickets later," said Kolarkar.