Railways’ 50 year legacy of serving food at Parliament ends in November, ITDC to take over
Northern Railway has been providing catering facility in the Parliament house complex since 1968 on no-profit-no-loss basis.Updated: Oct 23, 2020, 18:41 IST
Government’s tourism arm ITDC will take over the catering for the Parliament house on November 15 as the house has ended its more than 50-year-old association with the Northern Railways that has been providing catering facility in Parliament house complex since 1968. ITDC is the government’s body that runs the luxury five-star Ashok Group of hotels.
According to a letter reviewed by HT that has been written by the Lok Sabha secretariat to the Northern Railways on October 19, the operations of the catering units in Parliament House Estate including the Parliament House, Parliament House Annexe, the Parliament library building and pantries will be taken over by the India Tourism Development Corporation Limited (ITDC) from November 15.
The staff deployed by the Northern Railways has been asked to report back to their department by November 15.
“The Northern Railway may, accordingly, hand over the electronic gadgets viz. Computers, Printers etc. provided by the Lok Sabha Secretariat to ITDC and furniture items, equipment, gadgets etc to CPWD for being handed over by them to ITDC,” the letter said.
Northern Railway has been providing catering facility in the Parliament house complex since 1968 on ‘no-profit-no-loss’ basis and the loss incurred by the Railway as a result thereof is subsidised to Northern Railway by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats in the ratio of 2:1.
The catering services in the Parliament house complex are mainly for members of Parliament. Officers/staff of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats and other dignitaries also availed the catering services.
Northern Railway currently runs four catering units in Parliament house complex viz. Parliament House, Parliament House Annexe, Parliament Library Building and Parliament House Reception Office. Overall functioning of these catering units is being looked after by the Lok Sabha secretariat.
During the monsoon session of the Parliament, railways was reduced to only distributing and serving the food inside the House complex as the northern railway-run Parliament canteen was closed due to Covid 19 and no cooking was allowed.
Hindustan Times on July 9 had reported that ITDC will take over the House canteen by the next session.
The process to find a new vendor was started last year after concerns about the quality of food were raised. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla was personally looking into the issue. ITDC had made a detailed presentation to the Speaker in July. Officials present at the meeting had told Hindustan Times earlier that Birla emphasised the need to ensure the “quality of the food.”
At present, the canteen serves a total of 48 food items for lunch and evening snacks, from boiled vegetables to Kesari bath. But items such as poha, mutton cutlet or bonda are not available regularly. According to canteen officials, the vegetarian thali (Rs 40) and chapattis (Rs 2 each) are the most sought-after food in the Parliament complex.
According to data available with Lok Sabha officials, out of the Rs 17 crore subsidy, only Rs 24 lakh was spent on account of the MPs. Visitors, security personnel, government officials, and journalists covering Parliament accounted for the rest. During a session, an average of 4,500 people eat daily at Parliament.
Every year, Northern Railway submit their subsidy claim showing the sales made and expenditure incurred in providing catering services in Parliament house complex. As a mandatory practice, the claim amount submitted by the Northern Railways is vetted by the finance ministry. The provision of subsidy amount in the budget allocation of Lok Sabha secretariat is made on a year to year basis by taking into account the amount incurred/released in the previous year.