Do you know that you are paying up to Rs 200 for your meals on Shatabdi Express between Chandigarh and Delhi? It’s a part of the fare which means you pay for it whether you eat the food or not.
Many frequent travellers feel that the railways should make the passengers pay for meals only if they opt for it. Why those not eating anything should be paying, they ask. This will also bring the fare down, they say. The deteriorating standard of the meals makes the ‘forced meals’ look all the more unfair.
Presently, three Shatabdi trains run between Chandigarh and Delhi each side daily except on Sundays when the number is down to two. How much you pay for the train’s ‘Meals on Wheels’ varies from train to train and whether you are travelling in chair car or executive class.
In the evening Shatabdi, you shell out Rs 195 as catering charges in executive class and Rs 175 in chair car. The catering charges in other Shatabdi trains are a little lower, like Rs 150 in afternoon Shatabdi in executive class and Rs 130 in chair car. The catering thus comes to nearly 25% of the total fare. A random HT survey revealed that many passengers do not take the meals or other beverages served. Some only accept a part of it.
“My father travels to Delhi twice a month and since he suffers from diabetes, he can’t eat what’s served. He carries his own tiffin but has had to pay for food,” says Vishal Arora, who was at the railway station to see his father off.
A local resident Kavya Bhalla has been travelling to Delhi for work. “The moment I occupy my seat, I instruct the catering staff not to disturb me and let me sleep peacefully,” she says.
Apart from meal boxes, passengers are served soup with soup sticks and deserts like ice cream. With tea and coffee, passengers are served éclairs, cookies, peanuts and other snacks like samosa and sweets.
Pilot project on
Indian Railways’ additional director general (public relations) Anil Saxena said, “As a pilot project, we have given an option to passengers in two Rajdhani trains where they are not required to pay catering charges, if they don’t opt for it. Based on feedback, this could be extended to other trains, including the Shatabdi Express as well.”
Had tried to make food optional, says former rail minister Bansal
Speaking to HT, former Chandigarh MP and Union railways minister Pawan Bansal said, “The meals should be made optional. I had even tried to do during my time. I was told that it will not be popular and may lead to inconvenience. I am for making food optional and allowing people to
carry their own food, but with strict guidelines and instruction on maintaining cleanliness. Food quality is of the utmost importance. If railways give top-quality food, people will like to have it and there will no question of an option.”