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Penalty hike plan to deter free trippers

New Delhi, Dec. 15: Railway authorities plan to raise the penalty for those travelling without tickets and those holding unreserved tickets while travelling in reserved compartments from Rs 50 to Rs 250.

They have proposed to arm the Railway Protection Force with more powers to take action against troublemakers in trains.

Union railway minister Nitish Kumar, who today piloted three bills in the Lok Sabha to improve railway safety and increase earnings, said a hike in penalty for ticketless travel would help generate additional resources.

Officials said the revenue thus generated could exceed Rs 300 crore collected last year (it’s shown against coaching and sundry earnings in the railway budget and not as a separate account). Others feel that not all the amount collected would go into the coffers as corruption would increase.

The railway minister moved the railways (amendment), railways (second amendment) and Railway Protection Force (amendment) bills for discussion. These bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session.

According to the new proposal, a passenger travelling without ticket or with a ticket beyond the destination for which it was purchased or in another class would have to pay a penalty of Rs 250.

“It is very difficult to monitor ticketless travel in some parts of the country and there are sectors were there is rampant corruption. On the other hand, strengthening the RPF will help to take action against those entering air-conditioned compartments while holding a sleeper or unreserved ticket. It will still be difficult to monitor those who have greased the palm of a ticket inspector,” said a senior Railway Board official.

Officials, however, point out that punitive actions have certain benefits.

“Currently, a person with a monthly income of Rs 2,000 knows he will not be caught more than 2-4 times in a month. While to date he could get away by paying a maximum fine of Rs 200 (Rs 50 each time he gets caught), now he will have to shell out half his pay. While a ticket each day would cost him less,” said a senior executive director on the Railway Board.

One of the bills tabled in the Lok Sabha today proposes to arm the Railway Protection Force to tackle crimes committed within the ambit of railways. Once the bill becomes law, the RPF will be able to arrest and prosecute people creating trouble in trains.

The authorities also plan to equip the RPF and the Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF) by providing the latest training facilities, weaponry, wireless communication and vehicles.

The initiative aims to curtail attempts by external elements to tamper with rail installations, like track and signalling equipment.

The security personnel will also assist in guarding bridges, microwave towers, route relay cabins and tracks of identified vulnerable sections of the railways.

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