It’s a branching-off of a sort the railways in Bengal have not done in the past.
Eastern Railway is going to tell some of its employees to take time off from what they have been doing so long — running trains — to don the apron. The now-truncated section is going to engage a small part of its workforce in making pickles, sauces and other condiments and selling them. So, a few months on, Ballygunge railway station could be the place to head for if you are looking for pickle made of jalpai that tastes like what your didima would make.
ER has already sounded out the Forum of Scientists, Engineers and Technicians (Foset) for a tie-up in this regard, say officials. “We have set into motion a three-stage process that is ultimately going to end with railway employees themselves manufacturing pickles, sauces and condiments,” a senior railway ministry official told Metro.
To begin with, major stations in the Sealdah division will have outlets from where the Foset-manufactured condiments will be sold. The stations identified are Sealdah, Ballygunge, Dum Dum, Barrackpore and Naihati, officials said.
“Initially, the food products will be marketed by a team that Foset is going to engage,” explained divisional railway manager (Sealdah) D.C. Mitra. “We will just be providing them some space from where they can sell their products,” he added.
The second step will have railway employees marketing the Foset-made products. According to preliminary plans, the Railway Women’s Welfare Society will be given the task of selling the wares in compartments of local trains and from kiosks on the platforms.
“If hawkers can peddle their wares from railway property, we see nothing that can come in the way of railway employees themselves using railway offices,” Mitra said.
As the second stage fructifies, behind-the-scenes preparations for the last stage will be made. Foset will be asked to train railway personnel in the art of giving the right consistency to the recipes. When they have mastered the art, the railway employees will take over the manufacturing process from the Foset team, say officials.
“Completion of the three stages will take some time,” the Sealdah DRM admitted. “But we are determined to take advantage of this scheme to employ our human resources rationally and also supplement the revenue we earn from passenger and freight fares,” he added.
Foset now has a factory at Baruipur, in South 24-Parganas, where raw materials are locally available. Railway officials, however, are now toying with the idea of shifting the unit to Naihati, because of the free space available there.