Railways blame subsidiary IRCTC for catering mess
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Last Updated: Friday, July 23, 2010, 19:19
New Delhi: Squarely blaming subsidiary IRCTC for the mess in catering management in trains, Railways on Friday said there was no other option than taking over the job.

"Complaints over the quality of food served in trains were increasing and IRCTC was not addressing them properly," Chairman of Railway Board Vivek Sahai told reporters here.

Railways announced the new catering policy yesterday, taking over the catering responsibility from IRCTC.

"Though IRCTC was responsible for food quality, the blame was coming on Railways directly," he said adding, "So we decided to take over the responsibility by ourselves."

The new policy has clearly spelt out that Railways shall progressively take over management of all mobile catering services including base kitchens, pantry cars and all food stalls in railway premises.

About the need for bringing a new catering policy, he said, "A policy was introduced in 2005. But it was felt that it did not serve the purpose."

At present, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC), a PSU, is responsible for serving food in about 300 trains including in premier trains like Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi.

Asked "what is wrong" with IRCTC since it is a Railway subsidiary, Sahai said, "Their monitoring mechanism was not proper and which is why passengers were not satisfied with the quality of food being served on board and in stations."

About increasing complaints, he said there were 2505 complaints in 2007-08. The number rose to 3575 in 2008-09 and almost doubled in 2009-10.

So how Railways are going to solve the problem?

"We are making the monitoring mechanism more effective. As per the new policy, zonal railways will be entrusted with the responsibility of quality control and monitoring," Sahai said.

About the extra manpower required to manage catering business, Sahai said, "We are getting 4000 trained staff from the IRCTC to be used in the job."

With this move, IRCTC will forgo catering business to the tune of Rs 400 crore. It will now be responsible for selling e-ticket and i-tickets and running the 'Rail Neer' mineral water business.

However, Sahai made it clear that the organisation would not be wound up. "They will manage the food plazas and tourism...tourism is a growing industry in the country and there are excellent scope in it. So, IRCTC should concentrate on it," he said.

Though IRCTC is being given responsibility to manage food plazas, food courts and fast food units, the policy has stipulated that "all such contracts presently being managed by IRCTC, on expiry of the contract period, will be awarded by the zonal railways in a phased manner".

IRCTC will not renew any contract required to be handed over to zonal railways on expiry of the contract. At present, there are about 65 railway food plazas across the country.

Railways will now formulate operating guidelines to implement the new catering policy.


First Published: Friday, July 23, 2010, 19:19

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