— 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.