The ministry of railways has issued a rate card after being flooded with complaints by passengers of being overcharged for meals, water bottles and tea and coffee on trains.
The ministry posted the rate list on its Twitter account and asked people to lodge a complaint if they are overcharged.
“Know the rate list of @IRCATERING in case of any discrepancies must reported to @RailMinIndia: We work for you 24×7 (sic),” the tweet said.
— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) March 21, 2017
Disgruntled passengers have taken to several grievance portals, including Twitter, to lodge their complaints about the quality of food and catering services provided by private vendors, picked by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the public sector undertaking of the world’s fourth-largest rail network.
Under the contract, the assigned contractor is expected to provide services at rates specified by IRCTC, display a menu card and serve hygienic food. But more often than not passengers have complained about being fleeced by staff on board and served bad food.
In October 2015, railway minister Suresh Prabhu ordered a review of all the catering contracts and asked for a blacklist of companies involved in unfair and corrupt practices.
In February this year, Prabhu announced a new catering policy under which the food production and distribution functions were separated in an attempt to ensure that healthy and hygienic food is served on trains and railway platforms, following regular complaints against food quality.
The railways is attempting to rope in established hoteliers to build base kitchens at major stations under public-private partnership mode. The IRCTC, incorporated in September 1999, will be responsible for distributing food.
The railways PSU was relieved from the catering responsibility by the then railway minister Mamata Banerjee in 2010.
The new policy also stresses on the need to promote e-catering activities, which provides passengers with the option of booking meals from a panel of caterers selected by the IRCTC. Besides the 40 stations currently covered, several other stations will soon offer e-catering service in coming months.