New Delhi: Pallab Bhattacharya, spokesperson for Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), on Sunday tweeted that three members of his family fell ill after consuming food on a Delhi-Dehradun train on Saturday. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), however, has responded by saying that they had conducted an inquiry into the incident and found that “prima facie” the food was not spoiled.
Bhattacharya was travelling on the Dehradun Shatabdi Express on Saturday with four other members of his family from Delhi. On Sunday evening, he tweeted that three members of his family, including his wife fell critically ill and were admitted in ONGC Hospital, Dehradun.
“My Wife’s #KarwaChauth in ONGC hospital critical condition with 3 of us due to #IndianRailways poisoned food @IRCTC_Ltd @RailMinIndia @PiyushGoyal,” he tweeted from the verified Twitter handle, tagging the IRCTC, Railway Ministry and minister Piyush Goyal.
When News18 asked IRCTC managing director (MD) MP Mall about the incident, he said, “I am aware of the incident and have instituted an inquiry into this matter. We did a little background check and found that the family had consumed something even before boarding the train. It is quite possible that they had eaten something outside that might have caused them to react in such a manner.”
He added, “None of the other passengers on the train or in the coach complained of an upset stomach. We made sure to contact other passengers and did not find any such complaints… prima facie, it does not look like the food was spoilt.”
This is not the first time this month that the IRCTC’s food and hygiene standards have come under question. Former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi boarded Shatabadi to Delhi last week and showed CNN-News18 the dirty water and lemon juice that was served to him. “Today is Dussehra. I just opened the Fresca lime water and see what I found inside. Have a look at it. This is what we are supposed to drink,” he said in a video, as he displayed the juice pack with grime at its base. Following Trivedi’s rant, the Railways delisted the juice brand in question.
In July this year, an audit report compiled by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India revealed major lapses in the catering services offered by the Indian Railways to passengers. The report, which was tabled in Parliament, was compiled after an inspection of 74 railway stations and 80 trains across India.
It reveals serious discrepancies in terms of hygiene. “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, foodstuff were not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust, rats and cockroaches were found in the train etc,” the report said.