Railways eat humble pie with IRCTC catering

Takes over catering services from IRCTC after consistently bad performance by the latter


Shivani Chaturvedi | July 22, 2010

The speculations that the railways would take over the catering services from the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) proved to be correct with the coming up of the Catering Policy 2010.

The policy cleared by the railways states that "Railways shall progressively take over management of all mobile catering services and base kitchens in railway premises in a phased manner". However, the IRCTC will be running the catering services until the railways is ready to take over. The ongoing contracts will be honoured, but upon expiry the contracts will further be granted by the zonal railways.

Railways top brass claim that the decision was taken after passenger' complaints against quality of food on trains and at the stations rose.

There was a crying need to improve the catering which the new mechanism will remedy, promise the officials. In the budget 2010-11 the railway minister Mamata Banerjee had said that the policy was under revision and would be finalised as early as possible.

The railways formed the IRCTC as a public sector undertaking in September 1999 to upgrade and manage the catering services at stations and trains. However, the officials say accountability has consistently been lacking. "No one could be held responsible for the deteriorating standards of railway catering," says a senior official.

"But now monitoring would be easier," he adds.

At the same time, the railways is also apprehensive given the mammoth overhauls the move would require.

"It won't be an easy task.  A new wing has to be set up for catering services. New recruitments, setting up base kitchens etc has to be done,” another official says.

IRCTC worries, however, are of an entirely different nature, with most wondering about the future of the 3,000 strong catering staff.

"We do not know where they will go from here," says an IRCTC official.

Catering was the core activity of the corporation. As hospitality service is a new venture, the corporation is not even thinking of getting profit in tourism activity, the officer adds. There are some trains which the corporation runs on just 5 percent margin while there are others which are operated on a loss.



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