Sunday, July 25, 2010


The catering in Indian trains has been an issue that was being debated since time immemorial and if some of the officials of Railway Board are to be believed, the foods offered in some of the important trains are of world quality! The responsibility of railway catering was passed on the IRCTC, a specialized arm of the Indian Railways (IR) with the fond hope that there would be marked improvements in service because of the professional background of the catering personnel deployed by this agency. Unfortunately for various reasons IR was not able to satisfy the traveling public with complaints piling up day after day from the dissatisfied customers. Considering that not even 10% of the affected customers choose to file an official complaint the grouse against food quality must be almost universal which needs to be addressed by IR. It is against this context that IR decided to divest IRCTC of the catering responsibility recently.

"The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was squarely blamed by the Ministry of Railways for all the muddle created in the catering services at the railway stations and the trains pushing the railways to go in for a fresh catering policy. The move was initiated as the criticism on the food quality provided in the trains becoming huge and the lobbying for acquiring the catering. The Chairman of the Railway Board, Vivek Sahai, said that the railways would ensure availability of good food with lesser rates and better quality for its travellers with the profitability not being the criteria as per the new policy. IRCTC was formed under the leadership of Mamta Banerjee when she became the minister for railways for the first time and the board member of the railways as the chairman making him cautious to defend the new policy. He further said that the IRCTC did not take any suitable actions for the ever increasing complaints about the food quality. Though the responsibility for the food quality served by the railways lied with the IRCTC, the railways were being held responsible which led to the board itself taking in charge of the catering services. He also added that the failure of the present policy makes the introduction of a fresh policy for catering services all the more necessary. Mr Sahai said that the IRCTC supplied sub standard food at the stations and on the trains as it could not supervise the work efficiently. Under the new policy, the Zonal railways would be made responsible for the food quality and supervision. Due to this move, IRCTC would be left with only i-ticket and e-ticket business and also the internal mineral water operations, Rail-Neer and had to forego the catering business valued at Rs 400 crore".

It is not clear as to how the bureaucratic zonal railway officials would be able to a better job than the experienced IRCTC. The typical knee-jerk response of the present railway regime is fraught with great risks and the food "fiasco" is going to be more serious in the coming days. It is not clear whether various zonal railways are going to create specialized teams in each zone and how coordination is going to be achieved. At least now there is whipping boy to take the responsibility for mishaps and inferior quality of service and the traveling public going to be much worse than to day under the new dispensation. IR must not yield to such "political" skulduggery to buy temporary peace with its millions of clientele spanning the country.


No comments: