Tatkal (ie, instant, on-demand) was an ordinary Hindi word until the Railways gave it a special economic meaning for millions of Indians struggling to travel because tickets were impossible to get. Now, under their Tatkal Scheme, people could pay a premium of up to 30% and get rail reservations instantly. The response was so grateful and overwhelming that the Railways introduced Premium Tatkal in October 2014, doubling the extra charge under a dynamic pricing model. For the Indian state which thrives on a narrative of ‘pro-poor price caps’ and ‘protection against price gouging’, this was almost like endorsing ‘dirty profiteering’!

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