On my journey to Delhi from Shimla on Sunday night (July 22) by the 10:15 PM HRTC Volvo, it was a revelation that not only are there few takers for the e-ticket booking system for HRTC (Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation) but there seems to be no synergy between the booking clerks at the ticket counter and the people who handle the online bookings.
As the bus rolled late night into Solan, a girl in her early twenties embarked the bus with an e-ticket. The conductor was clueless and said that he did not have the online voucher. The voucher he was presented by the booking clerk in Shimla had no mention about the e-ticket or the seat number (15, which was on her e-ticket). The girl was understandably angry and informed the conductor that the same thing had happened to her a few days ago. She had been allotted the seat number 11 through online booking (for Delhi-Shimla) but when she had reached the Delhi bus stand, the booking clerk had already allotted the seat to somebody else. They had no clue about the online booking.
The girl this time, understandably again, demanded to close down this facility if the HRTC could not coordinate. Luckily for the conductor, the seat (No. 15) was vacant and nobody was sitting there. He agreed to allow her to travel in the bus to Delhi, but with a fear that if any flying squad does a surprise checking ahead, he had no proof that there was any online sale of the ticket. The girl said, that she’ll deal with that and she has the proof – the e-ticket. The details too – the date and the timing – on the e-ticket were perfectly fine.
While HRTC claims to be handing out computerised tickets, I was also appalled to find that HRTC at its Inter-State Bus Terminus in Shimla does not have even a power back-up. When I had reached the bus-terminus at 9:30 PM, there was no electricity and the booking clerks were handing out tickets in candle light. The passengers were all over one another amidst the chaos to get their tickets. The booking clerks were found to be struggling to find out that they were handing out the tickets of the right denomination and at the same time receving the right amount. In fact, I was always myself scared lest somebody picks my pocket.
Now would computers work under this situation? I’m not sure but I presume that HRTC has outsourced its e-ticketing service to Shoghi Communications of himachalhotels.in. Now is it a lapse on their part or HRTC for the e-ticketing issue? But I’m sure, that if Shoghi Communications had forwarded the e-ticket details to HRTC, the booking clerks had no access to their computer due to power failure. They had no power back-up for their computers even, forget about the people bouncing into each other.
I had not done an advanced booking. The conductor told me the bus was totally full, but if there were any cancellations – it would be known to Mr Sood only in the Control Room on First Floor. I along with my friend struggled in darkness to the first floor. Mr Sood was helpless, saying, only the conductor knows. Finally, I had to keep chasing the conductor to shower his generosity on me for any vacant seat.
There were about 20 passengers at that point of time, vying for the three (last row) vacant seats and the two VIP seats (for which no booking is done). I could see the conductor helpless as each and everyone was trying to call up some bureaucrat or minister and handing over his cellphone to the conductor or driver. Well seat No.1 went to a favourite of Mr Harbhajan Singh Bhajji (the MLA from Shimla). I got seat No. 43 on the last row as I had just been following him everywhere. However, my back-problem (I had this Amaron Back-rest hanging along with my luggage) finally forced the conductor to allot me seat No 10 (the VIP seat). Thanks to him that he kept asking me through out the journey, if I was comfortable and my back did not have much of a problem.
Thankfully for the conductor too, there was no surprise checking as he had no proof to show that the girl was travelling legally. Though the girl claimed that it was legal and it was HRTC’s headache to find out. In fact her ticket showed the journey and fare for the Shimla to Delhi journey, even though she travelled from Solan itself. The conductor on his part had tried to call up the Shimla Booking Office from his cellphone, but there seemed to be nobody to pick up the phone.
I agree with the girl, that HRTC should close down its online e-ticketing facility if it cannot provide power back-up for its computers and cannot coordinate. The passengers would be pleased to face the trouble at the booking lines rather than get harassed mid-way in the middle of the night.
Is there somebody here listening?