New Delhi: Taking note of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that termed the food served in stations and trains as “unfit for human consumption”, the Ministry of Railways has claimed that the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) would be forming a new catering policy by unbundling the current services on trains.
“In order to ensure better quality of food, the IRCTC will set up new kitchens and upgrade the existing ones,” said the ministry in an official statement.
The ministry further said that the IRCTC had been mandated to carry out the unbundling of services by “creating a distinction, primarily, between food preparation and its distribution”.
On Friday, the CAG tabled a report in Parliament compiled after an inspection of 74 railway stations and 80 trains across India, revealing major lapses in the catering services offered by the Indian Railways to passengers.
“During the joint inspection of 74 stations and 80 trains... audit noticed that cleanliness and hygiene were not being maintained at catering units at stations and in trains. Unpurified water straight from the tap was used in preparation of beverages, waste bins were not found covered, not emptied regularly and not washed, food stuff were not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust, rats and cockroaches were found in the train etc.,” the report said.
It added that “contaminated” food and food “unsuitable for human consumption” was also being served on stations. “Deficiencies in respect of quality of food served were noticed. Articles unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated foodstuff, recycled foodstuffs, shelf life expired packaged and bottled items, unauthorized brands of water bottles, etc, were offered for sale on station.”
The report observed “a number of unauthorized vendors on platforms and trains. During 2013-14 to 2015-16, 2,39,096 (2.39 lakh) cases were prosecuted by Railway Protection Force and fine imposed in eight Zonal Railways.”
The CAG also observed that a number of “unfair practices” were noticed during the audit. “Unfair practices were being followed in execution of catering services at stations and trains. Bills were not given for the food items served in mobile units in trains. Printed menu cards with tariff were not available with waiters and Catering Managers in trains. Food stuff served was less than the prescribed scheduled quantity, unapproved packaged drinking water was sold, Propriety Article Depot (PAD) items were sold at the railway stations at maximum retail price (MRP).”
According to the CAG, while a grievance redressal system was put in place, “there is no reduction in the number of complaints over the years. It was also seen that the major share of complaints pertained to overcharging and quality issues.”