Four months ago, a surprise check by a Delhi High Court-appointed committee exposed the nauseating state of affairs in kitchens in railway stations in the city. Now, the unappetising truth has come tumbling out of pantry cars.
Food stored in dirty containers and kept in open was the least of the lapses that a committee of lawyers found after an inspection of the Jammu Rajdhani, Karnataka, Chattisgarh and Purushottam Express, Punjab Mail, and Swaraj Express trains at the New Delhi station in the first week of November.
Cockroaches crawling in pantry cars, chapatis rolled on filthy tables, grease and dirt from exhaust fans dripping into the food, cooks at work with bare hands, undergarments strewn on table-tops used for chopping vegetables, dysfunctional hot cases and refrigerators being used as cupboards and wardrobes were common, said committee members Varun Goswami and Kirti Uppal in their report filed before the court on Wednesday.
The condition was much better in Dibrugarh Rajdhani, the panel said, but only because VIPs were travelling and the kitchen staff admitted “they had taken extra precautions”. Goswami said many of the passengers complained about the quality of the food being served.
After perusing the report, a division bench comprising Justices Mukundakam Sharma and Hima Kohli asked the Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to take immediate steps to “remove the shortcomings” and file a report in four weeks.
Defending the IRCTC, Attorney General Milon Banerjee said the corporation was only formed recently and was making sincere efforts to improve things. Submitting a report supported by photos, he said a slew of measures had been taken to revamp the base kitchens in the three railway stations. The court appreciated the efforts.
“Till recently the catering job was in the hands of railways. The intention behind the formation of the corporation is to upgrade and improve the catering service. We are on the job and need some more time,” IRCTC General Manager Vinod Asthana told HT while reacting to the report on pantry cars.