The alleged corruption in the Rail Neer supply may run into crores of rupees, but locally packaged drinking water manufacturers enjoy the lion’s share when it comes to bottled water sales at railway stations in Bhopal.
Instead of promoting its own brand Rail Neer, railway authorities are promoting local brands, which, according to passengers, are substandard in quality.
In most of the stalls, a Dhar-based brand is being only allowed to be sold on the platforms rather than popular brands and Rail Neer, some railway passengers and vendors alleged.
HT Team visited Habibganj and Bhopal railway stations to check the veracity of these complaints. Most of the stalls were found to be selling only locally packaged drinking water.
While some stalls had stocks of a popular brand, the railway’s own Rail Neer packaged water bottles were not found anywhere.
“Only local brands are available at the railway station. You will not find Rail Neer here,” a vendor, VK Agrawal, said.
Another vendor at the Bhopal railway station had a completely different story to tell.
“We have been instructed by railway authorities to sell only local packaged drinking water. Else, they will take action against us. And, we have more profit-margin in selling local brands than popular brands because no one wants to pay more than `15 for a water bottle,” the vendor said.
Many passengers complained of sub-standard products and of over pricing by vendors.
“Vendors charge arbitrarily for packaged water. The packaged water has no standard neither in terms of quality nor prices,” Uma Singh, who was waiting for Punjab Mail, said.
The Railway PRO, however, rubbished the complaints that Rail Neer was unavailable at stations.
“It is impossible that Rail Neer is not available at railway stations. May be the quantity is less due to inadequate supply, but it’s wrong to say that only local brands are available. For instance, MNC brands are also available at railway stations. Quality-wise, local brand is also good. If passengers lodge complaints regarding poor quality of packaged water, we will take action against vendors,” Bhopal division public relations officer (PRO) IA Siddiqui said.