Cracking the whip, Railways have imposed heavy fines totalling Rs 11.50 lakh on nine caterers including IRCTC for serving "bad quality" food in trains.
"We had launched a special drive in the last month to detect quality of food being served on different trains. We found bad quality food on some trains and action was taken against caterers accordingly," a senior Railway Ministry official said.
Besides Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), RK Associates, Sunshine Caterers, Satyam Caterers, Brandavan Food Products were among those fined. "IRCTC was fined Rs one lakh as a cockroach was found in the food in Kolkata Rajdhani on July 23," the official said adding, "bad food was found in 13 trains". Besides Kolkata Rajdhani, other trains covered during the special drive include Paschim Express, Pushpak Express, Motihari Express, Shiv Ganga Express, Golden Temple Mail, Netravati Express, Punjab Mail, Howrah-Amritsar Mail and Chandigarh Shatabdi.
While in some trains food was found to be kept in unhygienic conditions, in others it was either found to be stale or substandard, the official said, adding, fines ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs one lakh have been imposed. "A caterer would lose licence, if found at fault five times," the official said. Plagued by a number of complaints regarding the quality of food, Railways have made a concerted attempt to improve quality of food being served in trains.
Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda had announced in the Rail Budget to make course correction in catering service to address the problem. According to the plan, top caterers like ITC, MTR and Haldiram have been roped in to serve pre-cooked food in trains on a trial basis. Six trains, including three premier trains Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi, have been selected for introduction of pre-cooked food by ITC, MTR and Haldiram. Items like 'Chicken Chettinad', 'Hyderabadi Biryani', 'Sambar Rice' and 'Rajma Chawal' are among the mouth-watering dishes to be offered on these trains. The pre-cooked food will be packaged food which are just required to put into microwave before being served hot. "We will try pre-cooked food in trains for a week and depending upon the response it will be introduced in other trains on a regular basis," the official said.