IITian Arrested for Developing Super Tatkal App: Is This the Digital India We Hoped For?

Social Commentary

IITian Arrested for Developing Super Tatkal App: Is This the Digital India We Hoped For?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Opinion-shapers and policy-makers in India often tend to harp on about how the country can be a global powerhouse in the field of digital innovation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has pushed forth the “Digital India” narrative in many of his speeches. Why then was an innovator in this very field arrested by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) for developing an app that made booking train tickets easier for thousands of Indians? For S Yuvarajaa, an app developer and 32-year-old graduate of IIT-Kharagpur, his attempt to use technology to better people’s lives was met with a firm rebuke from the authorities.

Last month, on 23 October, Yuvarajaa was arrested by RPF officials from his home in Tamil Nadu. The RPF said he was being arrested under the Indian Railways Act 1989 for the “unauthorised business of procuring and supplying railway tickets”. The reason for their punitive action was that in 2016 Yuvarajaa had developed an app called Super Tatkal, and later a variant called Super Tatkal Pro, that acted as an alternative to the Indian Railways’ own app for booking tickets. Using an auto-fill software, Super Tatkal sped up the booking process considerably, and over the years, it grew to have over one lakh users. However, following Yuvarajaa’s arrest, it was taken down.

Yuvarajaa himself is currently out on bail, and is now hoping to work with the Indian Railways to improve their system. “I want them to talk to me and find out how the apps can help IRCTC’s ticket-booking operations. I might have been naïve and unaware of consequences when I developed the apps but I had the best of intentions,” he said in a HuffPost report.

The Powers That Be may envision India as a burgeoning digital utopia, but for innovators like Yuvarajaa who could bring the fantasy to life, reality paints a less rosy picture.