MADURAI: Throwing caution to the wind, the private travel agencies in Madurai are taking advantage of the loopholes in the norms to mint money by ferrying people to other districts and States. That’s what came to light after a telephone conversation between a travel agent and a ‘customer’ went viral in social media.     

In the audio clip, the agent is heard telling the ‘customer’ that his agency could obtain e-pass even for those who lack identity proof. Sources said that once the customer pays Rs 2,000 towards travel fare, his booking will be confirmed. “The passengers are then picked up from MGR bus terminus at Mattuthavani or near High Court between 8.30 pm and 9 pm. These travel agents, who operate the vehicles only during the night, ferry passengers from Madurai to cities including Coimbatore, Chennai and Bangalore,” they said, adding that the agents make it possible as they are hand in glove with some of the officials of the destination districts.   

Plus, the agents are allegedly misusing the provisions of the commercial e-passes. An official, who preferred anonymity, said that the lack of proper monitoring system at the exit points of the district is paving way for the violation. “If the e-pass sticker is pasted on the vehicle, none in the transit districts or the district from which the vehicle starts its journey would stop it for verification.

For instance, in early June, many in Chennai had left the State capital without obtaining e-passes. Had the officials in Chennai been vigilant on those leaving the district, there would have not been a surge in the number of Corona positive cases in Madurai and other districts,” he said. However, Collector TG Vinay said that issuing e-pass comes under the purview of the destination district. “The audioclips refer to the e-passes obtained from cities such as Coimbatore, Chennai and Bangalore.

Every vehicle passing through the checkposts in Madurai are being scrutinised. If any of the vehicles are found to be using a bogus e-pass, they are being seized and stringent action are being taken,” he added.
Rejection of applications It came to light that many take the ‘illegal’ journey back home after their applications for e-passes were rejected by the authorities concerned. Ask Raj Kannan (name changed) from Madurai, he would say that he was unable to attend his uncle’s funeral in Coimbatore as his applications were rejected several times. 

“The officials were asking for death certificate for issuing the e-pass. It’s impractical. Even on normal days , it takes months to get a death certificate. Besides, even the other options like attaching a letter from VAO or a doctor’s certificate declaring the death is unrealistic,” he said.  Meanwhile, official sources said that they are getting at least 4,500 applications seeking e-passes on a daily basis and that only 700 to 1,000 passes are being approved. 

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