On 27 February 2017, a new catering policy was issued by the national transporter, under which the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was mandated to carry out unbundling of catering services by creating a distinction between preparation of food and distribution of food on trains.
Quality food at Indian Railways stations and in trains: Indian Railways says it has taken several measures to enhance the quality of food served in trains and at railway stations. On 27 February 2017, a new catering policy was issued by the national transporter, under which the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was mandated to carry out unbundling of catering services by creating a distinction between preparation of food and distribution of food on trains. For this purpose, the food served on trains were mandated to be sourced from kitchens owned, managed and operated by IRCTC. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal in a written reply to a query in Rajya Sabha recently listed out the measures that have been taken to ensure hygienic and good quality food for passengers:
- In the last two years, 46 Kitchen Units were upgraded by IRCTC. Also, CCTV cameras were installed in 38 Kitchen units. Additionally, sharing of live streaming of the kitchen units through IRCTC website has been made operational by Indian Railways.
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) certification from Designated Food Safety Officers of railways’ each catering unit has been made mandatory to ensure compliance of food safety norms. To monitor food safety, the railways have deployed food safety supervisors at Kitchen Units. The food samples collected by them are sent for analysis and testing to the nominated accredited Laboratories under Food Safety and Standard Act. Also, penalties are imposed if unsatisfactory food samples are detected.
- The review of the quality of food, cleanliness, and hygiene in Kitchen Units and Pantry Cars is done through third-party audit. In addition to this, customer satisfaction survey is conducted through third party agencies.
- Indian Railways officials including food safety officers also conduct regular and surprise inspections.
- The system of printing QR code and other details such as date of packaging, name of the kitchen, etc. on food packets has been implemented as well.
- Ready to Eat (RTE) meals have been introduced as well as provision for e-catering services in trains.
- The supervision and monitoring of railways’ catering service through operation of centralized Catering Service Monitoring Cell (CSMC) toll free number 1800-111-321, CPGRAMS, E-Mail, Twitter handle and SMS based complaint has been introduced.
- According to the Railway Minister, to provide hygienic and quality food to the passengers, the national transporter has institutionalized a mechanism for monitoring of hygiene, quality as well as sale of catering items at notified rates through regular inspections at various levels. Goyal further said that the prescribed tariff of catering items has already been notified for both static and mobile catering units on Indian Railways network. The notified menu and tariff are available on the websites of Indian Railways/IRCTC, in Trains at a Glance, Pantry Cars, etc. The railways has also launched “No Bill- The food is for FREE” campaign, he added.