A slew of initiatives has been undertaken by the new railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal for improving the quality of food served on-board the trains are underway which will lead to upward revision of food prices, officials in the railway ministry said.
In order to enforce strict quality control and safety standard for food served on-board trains, rail minister Bansal has given instructions for setting up over one dozen food labs at key stations across the country.
Also, the new rail minister plans to do away with the departmental catering in trains, specially the elite trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duranto to being with. This will make way for private caterers under an amended rail catering policy.
An announcement to this effect may be made during the maiden railway budget speech of Bansal scheduled for next month, sources in rail bhawan said.
Speaking to FE, Pansal said: We will be setting up food labs so that there can be a check on quality of food served by railway caterers. According to the railway minister, the proposed amendment to the catering policy will include giving licenses to new caterers by May. Also, the licenses of trains where IRCTC is catering will be given to private contractors. We plan to do away with departmental catering in trains but it won't be done immediately, Bansal said.
These steps are on the anvil after a Bansal had ordered a review of the functioning of railway catering and food served in trains.
Railway earns a revenue of around R2,000 crore by selling 5,22,000 organizational meals, for which receipt is given to a customer, in a day. The national transporter, in 2010-11, made a loss of rs 54 crore by selling subsidised food in trains.
The railway will also set up 250 base kitchens across country. The land will be offered to bidders at very reasonable prices.
We don't want to make money by selling food. We are committed to provide good food at reasonable prices for all sections of society, Bansal said.
The minister also said that the production of Rail Neer, packaged water of Indian railways will be spruced up. At present, around 300,000 rail neer bottles are produced everyday whereas the demand of water at stations and in trains is around 30 lakh per day. We'll double the capacity of rail Neer plant and will also allow some other mineral water brands, Bansal said.
Railways has also launched a toll free complaint number-180011132, where passengers can directly register their complaints. The complaint line will be operational from 7 am to 10 pm. The complaint will be treated on real time basis and action will be taken against the caterer. We are also thinking of setting up food labs to check the quality of food, Bansal said.