Standing Committee slams slow pace of implementation of railway catering policy

NEW DELHI, 24 APRIL: A parliamentary panel has slammed the Indian Railways for working at a very slow pace towards providing basic passenger amenities like safe drinking water, freshly cooked food and cleanliness in trains and at the stations.

Expressing concern over the lack of adequate measures to provide safe drinking water in trains and at stations, the parliamentary standing committee on railways in its report presented to the Lok Sabha this week said RO (reverse osmosis) system should be mandatory at all railway stations. The committee was also dissatisfied with the railways for not spelling out concrete measures taken by it for maintaining cleanliness and hygiene. The committee was distressed to note that the new catering policy of 2010, though announced about three years ago, is being implemented at a very slow pace. It observed that zonal railways are moving at a snail’s pace in taking over catering services from Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

In pursuance to the 2010 catering policy, the committee also recommended effective and immediate steps for establishment of ISO certified base kitchens in the railway premises to ensure timely supply of meals and effective supervision, modernisation and mechanisation of catering equipment. It suggested pantry cars be invariably provided at the earliest in all long distance trains which have a running time exceeding 16 hours. In trains where provision for pantry cars is not feasible, steps should be taken to provide fresh food items to the passengers, it added.

The committee expressed disappointment that only 14 base kitchens are in operation inside the railway premises, while there are 135 base kitchens located outside the premises managed by private licensees. The catering policy 2010 stipulates that catering services are to be managed departmentally by the railways duly imparting in-service training to the staff.

Expressing concern over unauthorised vending in trains and at stations, the committee said it not only causes loss of revenue to railways but also poses a health hazard for passengers.