New Delhi: Flooded with passenger complaints, the railways have decided to rank railway zones and divisions for their performance, particularly relating to quality of food served and cleanliness on trains and at stations. The grading would be done on the basis of feedback received from passengers complaint books, text messages and Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS).
Officials of zonal and divisional railways, which are ranked poorly, would be held accountable and face action. “The fear of action would make these officials accountable. They would have to take corrective steps to ensure better quality food and cleanliness,” said an official.
Faced with public outcry over poor food quality, the railways cancelled the on-board catering contract with Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in 2010. But food quality remains far from desirable with a group of contractors monopolizing the catering services.
Just around 31 contractors have catering licences for all 264 passenger trains that provide pantry car services and several of these companies have remained in the business for decades. Besides complaints of cartel operations, there are also allegations that members belonging to the same family get contracts by floating multiple firms.
Now the authorities would be forced to take action against these companies if the food quality is not good, the official said.
Sources said minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha is pushing hard to implement the plan to ensure better food quality to passengers. Plans are afoot to provide pre-cooked meals of reputed brands.
“If the services are not up to the standard, especially in hygiene and the taste, severe action would be initiated against the vendors including cancellation of contract,” said a senior official.
The railways also plan to introduce a quality assurance mechanism through third party audit. The budget has announced 40% increase in allocation for cleanliness.