GUWAHATI: With complaints against the catering service of the Indian Railways becoming more frequent in recent months, Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has started a systematic inspection of catering units within the zone, which has so far led to penalty of over Rs 5.62 lakh being imposed on vendors and other service providers for non-adherence to quality norms.
The inspection, which started in late July, is expected to continue till mid-August, and covers catering units including pantry cars, base kitchens and static units located at railway stations.
Sharing details of the drive, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of NFR Pranav Jyoti Sharma said that in the first week of the drive as many as 18 pantry cars were inspected, during which a total of Rs 2.8 lakh had been recovered as penalty from the vendors for non-adherence to standards laid down by the railway authority.
“Four base kitchens have also been inspected and a fine to the tune of Rs 1 lakh has been recovered from erring contractors. In addition to this, six food stalls, three food plazas, four refreshment rooms and one ‘Jan Aahar’ unit have been inspected and a sum of Rs 1.82 lakh recovered as penalty,” he said.
There are seven base kitchens in the NFR zone. These are located at Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Kamakhya, New Coochbehar, New Jalpaiguri (two units) and Katihar.
“During inspection, aspects like location, ISO certification, capacity, staffing, mechanisation, cleanliness, hygiene, quality and quantity of food and other parameters are checked,” said Sharma.
It is noteworthy that as part of the ‘New Catering Policy’ announced by the Railway Board in February this year, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has been mandated to carry out unbundling of catering services on trains by creating a distinction primarily between food preparation and food distribution.
In order to upgrade quality of food preparation, IRCTC will set up new kitchens and upgrade existing ones.
As per the new policy, IRCTC is to manage catering service on all mobile units and pantry car contracts awarded by zonal railways are to be reassigned to IRCTC.
Besides, meals for all mobile units are to be picked up from the nominated kitchens owned, operated and managed by IRCTC.
The Corporation will also retain the ownership and be fully accountable for all the issues pertaining to setting up and operation of the base kitchens and quality of food, and it has been tasked to engage service providers from hospitality industry for providing service of food on trains.