IRCTC takes steps to improve hygiene standards of food on Indian Railways trains: According to the new Catering Policy of Indian railways, which was issued on February 27, 2017, to create a distinction between food preparation and distribution, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) has been asked to carry out unbundling. IRCTC is setting up new kitchens and is upgrading existing ones in order to improve the quality of food preparation. Also, other than base kitchens and kitchen units, IRCTC will manage the Food Plaza, Fast Food Units as well as the Food Courts. However, the minor static units (catering stall /milk stalls/ trolleys etc.) are to be managed by the Zonal Railways. Here are the initiatives taken by IRCTC to upgrade the catering services:-
1) In a bid to upgrade the quality of meal served to the railway passengers, the menu of prepaid trains has been revised. The focus is on quality over quantity, which means that some of the items on the menu have gone off and the quantity of food served has also been reduced. In order to enable the railway passengers to have variety in meals, ‘Ready to Eat’ meals have also been introduced.
2) The railways has introduced meal trays of bio-degradable material with airtight sealed cover for packing of meals from kitchens in selected Rajdhani and Duronto Express trains.
3) In an attempt to upgrade and to bring professionalism in catering services, the railways has fixed the qualification and experience in the relevant field for on board staff.
4) Indian Railways has also introduced hand sanitizers and the same is provided to the travelling passengers before service of a meal. Additionally, the usage of hand gloves has been made mandatory by the railways.
5) For on-board monitoring of catering services in mobile units, IRCTC has also deployed supervisors. Indian Railways has provided the staff with pre-installed complaint/feedback monitoring application on Tablets. Also, for real-time monitoring, CCTV cameras have been installed in base kitchens.
6) The railways has also upgraded 16 base kitchens with modern and mechanised equipments. Also, for audit of food safety, hygiene and sampling of the cooked food as well as raw material used for the preparation of meals, Food Safety Supervisors have been deployed in base kitchens.
7) The Indian Railways has also introduced service trolleys in Rajdhani and Duronto Express trains for smooth service in trains to the travelling passengers.
8) To avoid overcharging of meal by service providers, the railways has implemented billing by POS machines in selected mobile units initially under IRCTC. Also, the other mobile units are also being covered by the railways progressively.
9) For service and production staff of service providers, the railways has introduced new uniforms.
10) The railways has also facilitated TSV services through refreshment rooms, Jan Aahars and cell kitchens.
Recently, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State of Railways Rajen Gohain, mentioned that IRCTC has taken over almost all units in a phased manner. Further to this he also stated that the procedure for allotment of contracts for running various stalls at railway platforms has been simplified.