How to Cheat the Mumbai Train System

A blogger named Ganesh Kulkarni discovered that the commuter trains of Mumbai serve six million passengers daily but the system isn’t equipped to check everyone’s ticket. Instead, Kulkarni writes, ticket agents conduct random ticket checks. This has given rise to a form of cheating that is elegantly called “ticketless travel.” Although it’s probably not very common to get busted for traveling ticketlessly, there is a significant fine if you are. And so, Kulkarni writes, one clever traveler has devised an insurance policy to make sure that ticketless travelers who are caught can lay some of the expense.

Here’s how it works. You pay 500 rupees (about $11) to join an organization of fellow ticketless travelers. Then, if you do get caught traveling without a ticket, you pay the fine to the authorities and then turn in your receipt to the ticketless-traveler organization — which refunds you 100% of the fine.

Don’t you wish that everyone in society was as creative as the cheaters?

But, more important: wouldn’t there seem to be a big financial upside in investing in enough ticket-takers to make sure that the train system actually makes everyone pay? If I ran a swift little private-equity firm, I’d think about taking over the Mumbia train system, pronto.

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  1. Mack says:

    For all we know the system overall is running a loss. I can’t see how you’d make a judgment about taking it over without seeing the books. How old is the rolling stock? What shape are the rails and stations in?

    What I would do pronto is make an offer to take over the ticket collecting duties. You could guarantee a higher return to the system and keep a tidy sum for yourself.

    Of course, you could say the same about the US Internal Revenue… chances of that?

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  2. Mack says:

    For all we know the system overall is running a loss. I can’t see how you’d make a judgment about taking it over without seeing the books. How old is the rolling stock? What shape are the rails and stations in?

    What I would do pronto is make an offer to take over the ticket collecting duties. You could guarantee a higher return to the system and keep a tidy sum for yourself.

    Of course, you could say the same about the US Internal Revenue… chances of that?

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  3. speed says:

    The train system should take over the insurance company. Or start selling passes for 500 rupees.

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  4. speed says:

    The train system should take over the insurance company. Or start selling passes for 500 rupees.

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  5. This insurance company is in a precarious position — there’s a huge moral hazard because the financial cost is basically the only cost here. To the extent that this affects customer behavior, it’s a bad deal.

    Though it’s hard to say. Is this a policyholder-owned company, or is there someone collecting the profits?

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  6. This insurance company is in a precarious position — there’s a huge moral hazard because the financial cost is basically the only cost here. To the extent that this affects customer behavior, it’s a bad deal.

    Though it’s hard to say. Is this a policyholder-owned company, or is there someone collecting the profits?

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  7. muczachan says:

    A company in Poland offered a somewhat similar deal several years ago. For an up-front payment of 29.60 PLN they offered an “insurance” agreeing to cover 75% of ticket fines (speeding or otherwise) for its customers. (The minimum fine is 50 PLN for speeding 10 km/h ~6mph, up to 500 PLN for single violation.)

    Unfortunately I know of no one who used such insurance and I couldn’t find any information about why they stopped this business around 3 years ago.

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  8. muczachan says:

    A company in Poland offered a somewhat similar deal several years ago. For an up-front payment of 29.60 PLN they offered an “insurance” agreeing to cover 75% of ticket fines (speeding or otherwise) for its customers. (The minimum fine is 50 PLN for speeding 10 km/h ~6mph, up to 500 PLN for single violation.)

    Unfortunately I know of no one who used such insurance and I couldn’t find any information about why they stopped this business around 3 years ago.

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