Railway Minister Piyush Goyal instructed the catering staff to stop asking for tips from rail passengers and overcharging for food within 48 hours, reported The Indian Express. The order by the Railway minister was passed this week. Following the instructions, letters were sent out to all zonal railway units across the country, asking them to ensure that the practice should be stopped with immediate effect. The Indian railways have been trying to tackle the problem of overcharging by the catering staff for long now but it is for the first time that a strict deadline has been set for the same. However, the problem of catering staff asking for tips has never figured in policy intervention beyond the advising catering staff to not ask for tips and passengers to not encourage it.
After the order passed by Goyal and the ministry directive, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) contacted its contractors immediately to pass on the information and the deadline. Failing to follow the orders will invite a heavy penalty, reported IE. Railways’ catering inspectors will spread out throughout the trains to inspect if the practice is still prevalent-starting Monday. Also, the social media platforms will be under monitoring to look out for passengers complaining either of overcharging or about waiters asking for tips.
The whole “bakshish (tips)”has been a concept practiced in Rajdhani Express, which in turn is a legacy of the Raj era. However, as years passed the asking for tips from passengers at the end of the journey, has become a part of the deal.
On one hand, as can be seen, that there are stickers on trains that sensitise passenger not to tip, the catering staff appears at the end of the journey and ask for tips from passengers. Earlier, in 2015-16, a Union minister who happens to travel in Rajdhani had clicked a picture of a pantry staff asking for tips and had sent it to the former railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
Talking about overcharging, it is a bigger problem that the railway ministry has been trying deal with but have failed so far. Last year, as per an internal note prepared by the ministry, overcharging took the biggest chunk of the passenger’s complaint.
The whole food service of IRCTC has been under criticism for quite sometime. Earlier, in July, a CAG report called the Indian Railways food as “unfit for human consumption.” Stating that the provision of catering services for passengers with varied choices is an “onerous task”, Railways has said that structural reforms are being undertaken to help find a solution to the problem institutionally. According to Indian Railways, Suresh Prabhu had instituted a “Zero Tolerance policy” towards catering. “In the last six months itself, we have terminated 7 contracts, blacklisted 16 contractors, taken action against 21 officers and imposed fines in excess of Rs 4.5 crores,” claims the Ministry.