Continuing its crackdown against ‘touting’, the Indian Railways arrested 994 touts, involved in ‘gaming’ tatkal tickets of special trains during the coronavirus pandemic. The arrests were made by the Railways Police Force, which had launched an intensive drive, anticipating an increase in tout activity after the government had announced coronavirus special trains following the lockdown.
As a part of this initiative, future tickets worth Rs 87.70 lakhs were blocked and 239 agents, along with 994 touts were arrested for continuing with the illegal act.
Railways bust touting racket which used Real Mango software to illegally buy tickets
According to the documents accessed by OpIndia, the Indian Railways has recently busted a sophisticated touting racket prevalent in the country. The arrests made in the case revealed that the racket was not limited to a particular region or state alone but was active across the country.
A software called “Real Mango” was used by the touts to illegally book train tickets. The Railway Police began its investigation probing the YouTube accounts of those who posted videos explaining the working of the software. Mobile phone numbers were recovered from the analysis of the YouTube channels but it led to a dead end.
However, the police soon made a breakthrough when they got two leads: one Rehan Khan from West Bengal and another one from Surat. The police also obtained another lead of Matiyar Khan from YouTube analysis.
Meanwhile, Akhay Jenna and Pravin Bhai, both agents of Real Mango were arrested by the police from Surat on August 27. The user ID and password retrieved from them was used to access the data on illegal software server and to understand the working of the software. Contact details of a senior member of this racket was recovered. The police traced him down to Silchar and eventually arrested him on September 3.
At the same time, the interrogation of Rehan Khan led police to another man involved in the racket. The police identified Subhandu Biswas from the single PayTM transaction made by Rehan Khan. Subhandu Biswas, along with one Rahul Roy, were apprehended from Helencha, Bagdah near Bangaon.
Arrested Rahul Roy named the kingpin of the entire racket, dubbed as “The Mango Guy”. Phone records and chat history of Rahul Roy disclosed that a man named Chandra Gupta of “Kreation Next” was the mastermind behind the touting racket that used ‘Real Mango’ software to illegally book Railway tickets. Gupta, known for gis skills in developing network based software, was arrested by the police. He had reportedly confessed to having developed the Real Mango software after discussing it with Rahul Roy.
How did the racket carry out touting with the use of Real Mango software?
The three fundamental requirements for touting are:- Multiple User IDs, multiple SIM cards to activate those IDs, and multiple email-IDs associated with the distinct User IDs.
Multiple user IDs were created by a single group of touts. These IDs were activated through different phone numbers by pre-activated SIM agents at different locations. Once the IDs are activated, the SIM cards are sold in the market. There is no connection between the activated IRCTC accounts with the owner of the SIM cards. These activated accounts are then sold in the market and commission for User ID creator and generator is sought.
The Real Mango software bypassed V3 and V2 captcha and synchronised bank OTP with help of a mobile app, feeding it to the requisite form automatically. It auto-filled passenger and payment details and allowed simultaneous log in through multiple IDs.
The touts used auto-fill technology in which passenger data, payment details are pre-fed in the system. They logged in through multiple IRCTC accounts through proxy IP service, bypassing captcha and doing away with the need to fill the details of the passengers and payment. The payment OTP is also auto-filled with the help of a mobile app linked with server. In this way, touts were able to book tickets in bulk and are significantly ahead of time in comparison to the normal customers.
So far 40 people have been arrested in operating, selling, and using Real Mango software into the system. The Railways have also accessed the software server to understand its working. Data has been downloaded for analysis. Besides, proxy IP details that enabled simultaneous login from more than 2 accounts, IRCTC User IDs and PNRs of the tickets booked by the illegal software has been identified. A thorough investigation is underway in the case and raids are in progress to arrest people associated with running the software.
Indian Railways’ crackdown on illegal ticket booking
For a long time now, Railways has been plagued with the scourge of ‘touting’, where touts snapped up the Railway tickets in large numbers and later sold them at a premium to the travellers. The central government has time and again taken stringent measures to curb the sale of Railways ticket illegally.
The latest clampdown on touting is in line with the Indian Railways’ nationwide concerted attempt to end the menace of illegal booking of tickets by the touts. In January this year, the Railways had busted a similar touting gang, involving a team of software engineers based out of Dubai, IP addresses linked to Yugoslavia and a sprawling corporate structure in India such as country head, super-admins, lead-sellers and over 20,000 agents.
It took about two months for the Railway officials to get to the bottom of the scam. They identified a certain Hamid Ashraf as the mastermind operating out of Dubai. About 26 arrested were made in the case, with the RPF apprehending the gang’s India head, Ghulam Mustafa from Bengaluru. The western head of the gang, Deepal Saha, was taken into custody from Mumbai’s Borivali while he was trying to flee to Gujarat.
Earlier this year, the Railway Protection Force(RPF) had launched a drive, employing PRS data analysis through the PRABAL module, along with ground intelligence to identify the touts and bring them to book. In May 2020, the Indian Railway issued a statement, stating the arrest of 14 touts, including eight agents of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). Tickets worth Rs 6,36,727 were recovered from them.