Common Service Centres (CSCs) will soon start booking railway tickets, providing an opportunity to people in rural areas to buy train tickets in their villages and also augmenting the income of village entrepreneurs who have been hit hard by the decision of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) not to renew its agreement with them for Aadhaar enrolment.
Currently people in rural areas have to go to cities to book railway tickets as there are few options available in villages. With the launch of railway bookings in CSCs, people can buy train tickets in their villages because of the vast network of CSCs.
Over 200,000 gram panchayats already have CSCs and the remaining 50,000 will soon have them too. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier asked the electronics and IT ministry to set up a CSC in every gram panchayat. There are about 250,000 gram panchayats in the country.
Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal have discussed the proposal and the facility will be rolled out soon.
“CSCs have become a major instrument for providing all necessary facilities at the doorstep of the rural population. The initiative, one of the largest in the world, will ultimately reduce the rural dependence on urban India,” Prasad told Business Standard. Prasad has often projected the CSCs as job enabler. According to the minister, about 1 million people are employed in CSCs and this number could go up to 10 million in the coming years.
There are about 280,000 CSCs across the country. Village-level entrepreneurs, who run the centres, act as banking correspondents for over 20 banks and provide passport, PAN card, health care, DTH and mobile phone recharge services. However, the CSCs faced a roadblock earlier this year when reports emerged that Aadhaar data was leaked by some village-level entrepreneurs for a fee, leading to the UIDAI not renewing its agreement with them for Aadhaar enrolment.
This led to a financial loss for village-level entrepreneurs, who used to earn a substantial amount by providing Aadhaar-related services. It also led to job losses.
An official in the IT ministry said railway ticket bookings would offset the losses CSCs suffered due to withdrawal of Aadhaar work.