In July 2010, India legal news reports featured the changes in catering services that were announced by the Indian Railways Ministry. Soon, the Indian railways ministry will take charge of all catering services, from the grasp of the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). The process will take place in a phased manner. Further, the catering services will be provided through departmental catering. The increase in number of complaints about the quality of food served in the Indian Railways has prompted the government of India to frame a new policy.
India Legal News: New Catering Policy Includes Food from ISO-Certified Kitchens
As per India legal news reports, the new policy will mandate that the Railway Board will determine the menu, its charges for all the meals and catering services in passenger trains. Initially, the scheme will be applied on the Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi Express, and later, it will be made applicable on other long distance passenger trains.
Also, the new policy also provides for Janta meals and food from ISO-certified kitchens so as to create confidence in the passengers about the quality of food that is being served. Refreshment outlets will be converted to Jan Ahar outlets, that will serve Janta meals and economy combo meals. Tea and coffee will be served via automatic vending machines. Pantry cars will be added in all long distance passenger trains. To tackle the growing complaints about congestion on platforms, the number of catering units at big stations will be restricted to six.
India Legal News: Is there Hidden Politics in the New Catering Policy?
The Union Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee, has been criticized by political adversaries about the actual intentions in changing the Railways policy of granting contracts to caterers. Also, the zonal authorities have been assigned the responsibility of inviting tenders and choosing service providers. There will be reservation for the minorities and people below the poverty line in granting contracts.
The new policy assures healthy and hygienic food, constant monitoring of food making processes in the Railways and an effective redressal system that mandates prompt response within 24 hours. Further, a contractor at default can be penalized under the criminal laws.
The Chairman of Railway Board, Vivek Sahai, stated that under the new plan, the department will adopt a no-profit and no-gain policy. Cheap and superior quality food will be served to all passengers.
While good changes are always meant to address the gaps in existing systems, it is not clear whether the new changes have hidden political implications. Time will tell whether they did exist right from the inception of structuring these changes to implementing them.