No e-wallets for Indian Railways? For public’s sake, here’s how Suresh Prabhu led PSU is playing it smart

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New Delhi | Updated: December 15, 2016 6:17:15 PM

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his much-debated move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, the country saw a surge in the usage of e-wallets.

e-walletSince Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his much-debated move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, the country saw a surge in the usage of e-wallets. (Reuters)

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his much-debated move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, the country saw a surge in the usage of e-wallets. This exponential growth can be attributed to the fact that being a digital platform they have made transfer of money from one person to another quite an easy job. The process of assigning money is easy and requires only a few authentication checks. Yes, it’s a hassle-free process but how much it will help to fill government’s coffers? According to Indian Express report, Centre’s top accounting office has sounded the first word of caution on the use of e-wallets for transactions involving government services and utilities, saying that procedures need to be established to ensure that this money reaches its coffers. Now the Indian Railways seems to be deciding against introducing e-wallets over the counter, where credit/debit card machines are currently being installed at a fast pace with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu taking stock of progress every day. Instead, it will rely on the established system of its PSU Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) accepting wallet payments online for e-tickets and other services. Recently, the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) returned a query from the government’s largest public transactions interface, the Railways, which wanted to know if mobile e-wallets, such as Paytm, MobiKwik and FreeCharge, could be introduced for over-the-counter transactions, including booking tickets. The CGA responded that since e-wallets are “closed systems”, there is no established mechanism yet to know how the money will flow into the Consolidated Fund of India and that the RBI should be taken on board before any new mechanism is devised.

According to The Indian Express report, Controller General of Accounts (CGA) M J Joseph said that it was a matter of “safety, custody and control” of government money. “We should all move in a hurry, yes, but we should think through procedures first so that we don’t land ourselves in a mess later. That’s the point. Procedures have to be worked out,” he said. “Obviously, some due diligence has to be done by my office… we are responsible for the safety, custody control and flow of funds.. or else, it can be a scam if it (the money) is lying somewhere and it doesn’t reach the Government of India. How that money moves down the chain till it hits the Reserve Bank of India is something they have to first work out with the RBI,” said Joseph.

Stressing that he has no problem with new technology, Joseph said, “We have no problem if technology brings in fund-flows through different sources. But the point is that, look, how does that fund flow in a timely manner, transparent manner, auditable manner to the RBI, it is my concern and the concern of the Reserve Bank.” Notably, the CGA’s office, under the Ministry of Finance, is responsible for the accounting of the Consolidated Fund of India.

Railways, however, is playing it smart by putting the onus on IRCTC saying, “as a company, IRCTC can get into an arrangement with any wallet company. The government coffers do not come into play there because IRCTC pays Railways the money for the tickets in advance,” Railways officials, however, said they are introducing credit/debit card machines at counters. That apart, e-tickets can be booked with all sorts of payment channels online, including wallets.

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