On September 1, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation introduced an optional travel insurance scheme on train e-tickets booked through its website for a mere 92 paise per passenger, with a payout promise of up to Rs 10 lakhs. But close to three months on, the scheme does not seem to have made much of an impact on travellers.
Only 35% of passengers who book e-tickets opt for the scheme, according to figures shared by senior officials of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation. This despite the low premium and compensation offers of up to Rs 10 lakhs in case of death or permanent total disability caused by train accidents, up to Rs 7.5 lakhs for permanent partial disability, up to Rs 2 lakhs for hospital expenses for injuries, and Rs 10,000 for transporting a victim’s mortal remains.
The derailment of the Indore-Patna Express in Kanpur on Sunday, which left at least 148 dead and over 200 injured, may prove to be a litmus test for the scheme. A day after the accident in Uttar Pradesh, The Indian Express reported that only 128 of the 695 passengers on that train had signed up for the travel insurance.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation is now considering a proposal to make insurance scheme the default option for each e-ticket booked, unless a passenger chooses to cancel out, the report added.
Optional insurance scheme
“The scheme started on September 1 and around 3.5 lakh passengers on average are insured under the scheme every day,” said Sandip Dutta, spokesperson for the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation. “When it comes to bookings, around 5.7 lakh tickets are booked through the internet per day.”
According to another senior official with the railway firm, who did not want to be identified, these 5.7 lakh e-tickets translate into traffic of around 10 lakh passengers, since tickets can list more than one passenger on them.
Going by this data, around 3.5 lakh out of 10 lakh passengers who travel on e-tickets issued through the IRCTC website are covered by the insurance scheme – that is a daily average of 35%.
There has been a constant growth in e-ticket sales in the past few years. In 2014-’15, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation achieved a daily average of 4.6 lakh e-tickets, covering around 9.4 lakh passengers.
The optional insurance scheme is anchored by IRCTC, in collaboration with three companies, ICICI Lombard, Royal Sundaram and Shriram General, which act as the insurers. The scheme is available for all classes of confirmed tickets – except for suburban trains. It applies not only in cases of accidents but also terrorist attacks, riots, robbery, shootouts, arson and accidental falls from trains, as described under sections 123, 124 and 124A of the Railways Act, 1989.
The insurance claim should be made not later than four months after the incident and the payout will be made within 15 days of the receipt of the last required document, according to a document on the IRCTC’s official website.
“The contractual obligations under the scheme are between passengers and insurers,” said the IRCTC official. “The liability of insurers under this scheme is excluded from other compensations, including those under the Railway Accidents and Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Amendment Rules, 1997.”
Under these rules, the amount of compensation payable for death is Rs 4 lakhs while the amount varies between Rs 32,000 and Rs 4 lakhs for injuries sustained.
Lack of awareness
Despite the obvious benefits, why do 65% of people who book e-tickets choose not oto pt for the insurance scheme? “One reason could be that the option has not yet been introduced in the IRCTC mobile application,” said the official.
Booking agents in Delhi offered a wide range of reasons for the cool response to the scheme. But most agreed that few travellers know about it.
“There is tremendous lack of awareness among passengers,” said Gulab, who owns a travel agency in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk.
Another agent said that there is also the problem of many rail ticket agents operating multiple booking accounts opened with fake details. “They take advantage of their clients’ lack of awareness and deliberately decline the option, assuming that their accounts will end up getting scrutinised if the question of verification in the name of the insurance policy arises,” this person said.
The rules for retail service providers registered with the IRCTC requires them to provide their correct address, mobile number, email address and PAN number on the registration form.