Monday, September 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

67 free riders found
CBI raids Palace on Wheels tourist train
Tribune News Service and agencies

CBI officials interrogating passengers.
CBI officials interrogating passengers during their raid on the tourist train Palace on Wheels at Jodhpur on Saturday. — PTI photo

New Delhi, September 9
CBI sleuths, who held a surprise raid on the luxurious “Palace on Wheels” tourist train near Jodhpur yesterday, found 67 passengers, many of them Rajasthan Government officials and their family members, travelling without tickets.

CBI spokesman S.M. Khan told The Tribune here today that all 67 passengers have been identified and their names have been referred to Northern Railway and the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) for further verification and necessary action.

“We have referred the names to Northern Railway and the RTDC as many of the ticketless passengers were officials of Rajasthan Government and their family members,” Mr Khan said, adding that no case had been registered so far.

In a surprise raid yesterday morning, the CBI officials had intercepted the train near Mandore in Jodhpur district to ascertain whether some passengers travelling in the train were without tickets.

While 67 passengers were found travelling without ticket, all 38 foreigners travelling in the train possessed valid tickets, the spokesman said.

Incidentally, the RTDC was taking a Press party on board the train, which is one of the four best trains in the world.

Each ticket in this prestigious and luxurious train costs Rs 1 lakh.

However, the surprise raid has raised a question on the agency’s method of operation as the sleuths allegedly did not have a search warrant to carry out the search.

Journalists who were travelling on the train, as part of an RTDC-sponsored tour, told UNI that the CBI officials asked the passengers to produce their identification proof, but refused to show any “search warrant”, saying that the raid had been conducted on “oral instructions”. Search warrant is a precondition for carrying out any such raid.

CBI Deputy Commissioner of Police M.D. Khadule, who was leading the 14-member team, said they were acting on “oral instructions” from the Superintendent of Police (CBI), Jodhpur. They had all the powers to do so under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, he said.

Expressing concern over the manner in which the raid had been conducted, Rajasthan Tourism Minister Bina Kak and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) Chairman Rajiv Arora said it had ruined the efforts being made to make the train more popular abroad. “It is really very unfortunate. We will definitely look into it how it has happened,” they said separately.

According to the RTDC authorities, the train is being run since 1983 and it is the first time that such a raid has been conducted. An RTDC official said the tourists and mediapersons were on a familiarisation tour, which was often organised to promote business.

Although the “Palace on Wheels” is a joint venture between the Railways and the RTDC, but except the driver and the guard, all staff on the train belonged to the RTDC. Even the business promotion for the train is undertaken by the RTDC, the official said.

JAIPUR: Annoyed over the raid, foreign tourists said this was an attack on their privacy.

“Foreigners, who had paid heavily to have an enjoyable experience of India on the train, feel the raid is an intrusion on their privacy,” Mr Anthony P. Licata from the USA told a PTI correspondent on board the “Palace on Wheels”.

Of the 38 foreigners aboard the train, 20 held a meeting in the Maharaja Lounge, denouncing the surprise check, Mr Licata said.

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