The best Railway news I have come across after a very long time is the beginning of the e-catering on trial. This appeared in the Business Standard news
I wish there is no vested interest and it will be allowed to succeed. Very shortly, the project will get implemented on all the trains. Food has been the biggest source of complaint, Indian Railways had to face. Formation of IRCTC, its subsequent criticism, monopoly of fewer players, deterrent action of fine and cancellation of license, a cockroach in the food were the news headlines depicting the ups and downs of catering services over Indian Railways. Catering is the most difficult service and one menu can never meet the taste of a large many classes of passengers Indian Railway handles.
“The food taste is so moody that a person asks his wife ‘ aaj hotel jaisa khana banao’ and when he goes to restaurants, asks the waiter for “ghar jaisa food”.
The other issue is quantity to be served. One can see the wastage of food in Rajdhani type trains, where it is billed with the ticket, and still complaints of inadequate quantity. There are news of wastage of food in marriages, but no one has ever written about the same in Rajdhani trains happening almost daily. So this attempt is a win-win situation for passenger as well as Railways, therefore, Indian Railways shall go wholeheartedly to make the scheme successful and not permitting any vested interest to spoil the effort.
How is it a win-win situation?
1. Variety of food goes up. He will have a menu to choose and will not depend on standard items like bread/butter/omelette/cutlet for breakfast; everyone is accustomed of hearing from the catering bearer.
2. He is served hot food cooked about 2 to 3 hours before. Frequent or continuous re-heating of food results in losing its taste.
3. It is beginning with IRCTC but the more reputed brand will join the bandwagon, giving an option to the passenger to choose the quality and taste of his liking.
4. The arrangement will serve not only those who want Aloo fried, Paneer Pasanda, Butter nan but also those looking for boiled Aloo, boiled Lauki, tea without sugar, diet cock which is rare to find at present. ( I am not sure of the arrangement being made by IRCTC, but sure of working on the plan)
1. It will be able to reduce the reasons for the large number of complaints.
2. This is the first step to remove the pantry car from conventional trains, to begin with, and followed for the Rajdhani type of trains. There were two incidences of fire on pantry car of running Rajdhani class of train due to misuse of cooking facilities in the pantry car. Look at the recommendation of the High Level Safety Committee headed by Sh. Kakodkar.
“The Committee recommends strict enforcement of the existing instructions prohibiting cooking in Pantry Cars. License of violating contractors should be cancelled and they should be severely penalized if found cooking. Necessary provisions in this regard should be made in the Railway Act.”
3. The electrical load of a pantry car is equal to two AC coaches. In case, Indian Railways desires to increase the number of coaches, the need for two pantry car crops in, and therefore, a vicious circle sets in, restricting the number of coaches. With pantry Car removed, it is feasible to run 21 coaches Rajdhani trains, a boon to reduce waiting list.
4. The Indian Railways shall begin with two class of fare in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, one with food and other without food and food served for all by e-catering from the nominated stations. This will certainly reduce load for serving food at wayside station as there large many who prefers to carry home cooked food.
5. About 50 catering staff travels in the train and it will certainly off load this much of responsibility, TA and DA bill of the staff etc.
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