Captcha challenge irritates passengers on railway booking portal

The railways web traffic filtering technique using a complex captcha with a wavy strikethrough pattern is keeping many old people on the sidelines during this festival season, unable to take advantage of the tatkal booking service.

Many of those who failed to complete the online booking alleged that the high security method to avoid spammers pushes genuine users out of the network.

“Even a young passenger with very good eyesight will have to struggle to decipher the strange captcha pattern. It’s survival of the fittest in this frantic online race,” said NC Rajendran, a Vadakara native who encountered the difficulty repeatedly.He pointed out that seniors who use the IRCTC mobile app are the ones who mostly fall at the first hurdle.

Mr. Rajendran felt that complicated mathematical captchas are another ordeal for many amidst all the other challenges of getting a ticket. “One must enter multiple passwords and one-time passwords in addition to complying with the captcha challenge. This all happens amid frequent invalid captcha error messages and unexpected session disconnections. I don’t know why a passenger should go through such a cumbersome process to get a ticket,” he said.

Sheela Damodaran, a retired teacher from Thiruvangoor, said she was now able to ask others for help. “Only those who frequently use the online booking service can rise to the challenge. For the majority, it is quite a difficult task,” she added.

Confederation of Indian Railway Users Association (CAIRUA) officials said complicated captcha and other web traffic filtering techniques were just some of the clever methods to screen ordinary passengers and encourage only their “smart” counterparts. They also believe that the railways’ tatkal reservation system actually widens the digital divide.

“Alongside the captcha challenge, there is a kind of unfair online ticket trading without any consideration for seniors. The quota of expensive premium tatkal tickets is high now that passengers find it difficult to get regular tatkal tickets,” said CE Chakkunni, the confederation’s current president. He pointed out that the dynamic pricing introduced in the reservation system has troubled many passengers who are looking for a cost-effective trip.

On the other hand, the railway authorities stressed that the complicated captcha and other methods of filtering web traffic were not intended to isolate a particular segment of passengers. This is a globally accepted filtering method to save the website from a sudden crash, and things may change with the entry of other improved options, they said.

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