Tuesday, 16 April 2013

irctc.com : Inside the most impeccable portal on the planet

A few days back I came a cross a rather peculiar piece of news which sardonically described the toil that any regular visitor of this website has to go through in order to book what I consider a fourth desideratum of any Indian - a railway ticket. Whereas there is a plethora of melancholic posts elucidating the struggle that one registers to get the most priced possession in one's entirety, I tried to look at things from a different viewpoint and have come up with this post in an attempt to evangelize people to look at the positives of what I assume to be a website that beats Facebook's traffic stats every single day.

Although this is by no means an exhaustive account of the angelic prospects associated with the most luscious of automations, this is an honest attempt to char the predispositions and apprehensions which people bagged by reading about the web portal on a multitude of sources. Please feel free to share this account in case you find it worthy enough for that.

1. The most advanced firewall

Citing what some of irctc's internal sources term as the most advanced cyber security system on the whole Internet, let us present to you what is conceived as the single most powerful firewall that is capable of not only quashing malicious accesses and intrusions but it also prevents the cloaked stealing of data. Irctc has deployed the most strongest and the most lucid mechanism on their gateways to avoid what can be avoided. It's almost impossible for even a legitimate user to login to the portal so just imagine how painstaking would it be for a hacker to say, steal credentials of someone. In fact the servers that host the internal databases are not servers in the usual sense. They run on Intel Pentium 3 processors with 128 MB of RAM, a revelation in server technology, and run the most advanced database server of all times - Sql Server 2000. Hence, by rejecting 99 of the 100 requests that hit the database server, the implicit technological hierarchy ensures that the probability of a hacker breaking into the system is reduced to a paltry number. The security advisor at irctc says "If only 1 request per every 100 requests is entertained, then given the amount of legitimate users that are logged into the system, the probability of a legitimate user's login request finally getting access to the database is very high. And on the other hand, given the fact that hackers are woefully outnumbered at any occasion, it's enormously improbable that the one request that scrapes through our Do Not Allow(DNA) firewall technology belongs to some hacker, thereby rendering the barrier of the system extremely robust and secure.". The security consultant who seems to be a chauvinist about irctc further added "Courtesy of our vehement strategy of preventing information leaks and cyber attacks, the website in itself is hosted on the most advanced architecture conceived till date. A pentium 4 processor with a 'humongous' 1 GB of Ram.". He further added "Can you beat that !". When asked if such obsolete and incapable systems may be the reason behind  the phenomenon of the site getting down while users make an attempt to login, he replied "That's a deliberate move. And how dare you call our systems obsolete. They're the most advanced one gets.". Hence the DNA firewall and the strategy of hosting the site on an obsolete architecture gets a thumbs up from us on this aspect.

2.The timeout strategy

And as if complementing the strategies mentioned in the first point, the website is so lucratively designed that no user is capable of staying logged in for more than a random amount of time. The senior software engineer at CRIS, the body that maintains and builds future versions of irctc, told us that the sessions of the website are purely dependent on the amount of users logged in. The session timing is in a way directly proportional to the number of users currently logged in. He said this is a move which makes sure that no intruder can stay logged in for so long that he may be able to mess up in any way with the system. When we asked him that the same move ensures that no user as well could not stay logged in longer enough to book a ticket,he ridiculed us and said such blatant and baseless allegations are very egregious and mar the image of the symbolic portal. He further added that users are not their priority, it's saving the website from attacks. He said that the users can anyways book tickets from stations. He said "I don't see the point in buying tickets online. This evades the fun one derives while standing in a queue for a day and a half, savoring the delectable aroma that arises from the filth and lack of mopping". He said that the joy one gets while booking a ticket after going to a railway station is simply unmatched. When we told him that some irctc users feel as much of joy after booking an online ticket as well, he bellowed at us and threatened to put us on Chambal Express. But we just have to say that this peculiar strategy has worked to the extent of keeping intruders from breaking in. Some sources say that since 1995, a total of 1298 reported suicides have been committed by personnel who were trying to break into the system. A few of them were also found heaving in monasteries and some others have either taken an exile or have started working in the railways itself. All in all, this strategy as befuddling as it may seem, has worked perfectly.

3.The safest,securest payment gateway

And as if being placed as a move to consummate the literally invincible portal, there is a third layer of protection which ensures that most of the monetary transactions are chewed away in an attempt to protect the system. The monetary partner of irctc,Maangeram and Payaarelal pvt. ltd,  one which handles the payment gateways and hence all the payments made at the coveted portal, entertained us by showing a chart which had a breakup of all payments received on that day. The chart had 3 sections - deliberately denied,mistakenly denied and ambiguous. When we asked about what this "ambiguous" means, he explicated that they make sure that no transactions get processed but at times a few unlucky transaction requests scrape through. They added "And courtesy of the hunger that our banks have for such transactions to take place, once the transaction gets forwarded from our side, the users unfortunately get their tickets. We're working to solve this problem, day and night". When asked about the refunds which sometimes take some millenia to get processed, they said "The government takes good care of the money and invests it in places where they could get some good interest. And by the time the user has lost the propensity and perhaps lost track of the amount having being debited from their accounts, we pay them back to exhibit our egalitarianism and our devotion to mankind". The personnel wiped out the copious tears tingling on his eyes after speaking this. And when we asked where does the government invest this money, his chest swelled with pride and he said "Switzerland". To sum up this aspect, we just have to say that the third system at irctc literally savages any possible threat to the system.

4.Secure Third Party Transfer

After fathoming the security aspects, we tried to delve a little on the emphasis which irctc lays on it's customer. We asked them if they have any Customer Relationship Management(CRM) system, of whose absence they immediately admitted to. However, they fanatically retaliated saying that they do have a DARM which is much smaller than a prospective CRM and satiates the need of laying emphasis on individual customers. When asked for an expansion of the abbreviation, they said it's Dalal and Agent Relationship Management, the path-breaking thing according to them. They further elucidated that DARM is a way of keeping all the railway agents and more importantly Dalals in close loop so that customers always get the tickets on time. When we asked about the vicissitudes of this system and about the extra amount levied on users for getting a ticket through the unfair means of Dalals, they said Dalals are the traditional means of obtaining railways tickets and terming their involvement as unfair is utterly "blasphemous". They let their exasperation subside and told us that Dalals are a fully funded subsidiary of Railways but the relationship is so tacit that no one is needed to admit to that. They further added that Dalals today are the primary reason why people get tickets during the tatkal window. According to them, the robust irctc portal and station ticket counters will never be able to suffice for what Dalals do. "They are the pillars of irctc" they said.

5.The perfect plan

In an attempt of adding an extra amount of tinge to what railway personnel described as the most impeccable automation on the whole planet, they finally arranged a meeting of ours with an official of some higher authority. The official was a little busy on phone when we entered his exorbitant room. There was a pile of bloodstained letters laying aside his table. He pointed to them and said "With love from the people". He was a very convivial person and even offered us the half cup of stale tea left by the former visitor. We refused it only to see him gulping it afterwards. He then finally started the discussion. He said "My comrades must have already briefed you about the concepts which have now become the doctrines of irctc". We nodded. He then engrossed us for the next 20 minutes. This time has literally filled our hearts with respect for the man and for the irctc. The man told us that the railways works on a very well laid out plan. It is believed that the user's comfort and user's travel only comes after user's security. He also said that there are certain underpinnings behind why the system works the way it works. He told us that people are denied tickets on railways so that they could save money and use it for better and more productive purposes than traveling. When we asked about the losses incurred to working class when they fail to travel by trains, he suddenly jolted out of his seat and said that he won't tolerate such officiousness again. We sought pardon and he was on his seat again. He said that railway makes sure that the working class that matters the most always gets its tickets on time. When asked about the circle of employees in this class, he replied "politicians and other top level bureaucrats". He then said that there is also a bold strategy behind keeping refunds at abeyance. He said that the government knows better on how to spend the money than the people to whom it belongs. Hence they use that money for better purposes than the uses to which the users would have put it in case it was refunded on time. We managed to veil one of those papers and when we left his room, he opened it and read it. To our surprise, the letter was written in blood, pure blood, as if out of rage. And what was written was even more astonishing. "Tried to book a tatkal ticket. The anger that came out of the repeated session timeouts and other failures compelled me to hit so hard at the keyboard that my fingers crunched into the assembly and they started bleeding. Have written the letter with the same blood so that it could serve as an anathema."

After mustering all this information from a pied of resources, we feel that it was very bad on our part to keep disparaging the portal for things that always had a good motif behind them. As it is, this is indeed the most impeccable portal on the Internet.