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Catering job on Rajdhani taken off IRCTC hands

- Better food for passengers on mind, Indian Railways floats tenders to appoint fresh agency

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation would soon stop its catering service on Rajdhani trains, as tenders have been floated to appoint a fresh agency for the job.

For some time, passengers have been complaining against substandard food being served by IRCTC on the trains. The latest allegation came on Sunday when a passenger on the Howrah Rajdhani (12305) claimed she found a cockroach in her meal served at Mughalsarai Junction.

The woman was in an AC three-tier coach (B4) of the train. The co-passengers stopped the train from proceeding to Delhi. The agitation continued for an hour and the train could only continue its journey after the intervention of Government Railway Police.

The railways decided to cancel the Rajdhani contract in an aim to provide better food to the passengers. Tenders were floated last month to select a fresh agency.

In 2010, Indian Railways cancelled IRCTC’s catering contract on 19 express trains under the East Central Railway (ECR). The Jan Aahar stalls, popularly known as Janata meal, started by former railway minister Mamata Banerjee also taken back.

Later in August 2011, the railways took away the corporation’s service on the Jan Sadharan and Garib Rath trains after complaints about substandard food came in from passengers.

Railway officials claimed the decision received an impetus from the performance of private agencies, which were given the catering responsibility on the trains later.

A senior IRCTC official in the Patna region denied the allegation of a cockroach being found in food.

The official told The Telegraph: “I have heard about the Mughalsarai incident but the passenger’s claim is not right. How can one be sure that the cockroach was found in the food? You find cockroaches running around in the train coaches. As far as the railways’ decision to cancel our service on the Rajdhani is concerned, that is true. Very soon, IRCTC would no more cater on the Rajdhani trains, which was the only one in our kitty since 2011.”

The official added: “Tenders for selecting a fresh agency were floated last month.”

Now, with the Rajdhani contract leaving the IRCTC’s hands, the agency is only left with its responsibilities of e-ticketing, food court and food plaza.

Chief public relations officer, ECR, Arvind Kumar Rajak said: “The railways are making certain changes and reforms in its catering service. It does not mean that IRCTC’s service would not be considered at all. If they want to contribute, they can always come forward. Private agencies are doing a really good job with catering. This is the reason they are being selected to cater food on premium trains like the Rajdhani.”