It is official now. Catering services in Indian Railways use unpurified tap water in the preparation of beverages and food items in trains, while food stuff are kept in the open for flies, insects, rats and cockroaches to feast upon while waste bins lay uncovered, unwashed and spilling with leftovers.
In the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on railway catering till March 2016, likely to be tabled in Parliament on Friday, the national auditor besides pointing out the utter lack of cleanliness and hygiene said bills were not being given for the food items served in mobile units in trains with printed menu cards with tariff for the list of food items sold in the mobile units not available with the catering personnel in trains.
Not just that, in the railway stations, food items unfit for human consumption like contaminated foodstuff, recycled foodstuff, shelf-life expired packaged and bottled items,etc., were offered for sale at maximum retail price with weight and prices different from the open market and at significantly higher prices.
The CAG report blames the frequent change in catering policy and consequent transfer of responsibility to manage catering units for the mess.
Indian Railways has changed its catering policy three times since 2005 with the last policy change announced in February 2017.
Over the years, the frequent policy change has created a lot of uncertainty in management of the catering services provided to the passengers over the years, with the blueprint for providing catering services not prepared in the seven zonal railways.
Due to the frequent policy changes, the railways could not take effective steps for provision of necessary infrastructure in terms of base kitchens, static catering units, etc., the national auditor said.
Every year, the Indian Railway ferries about 2.22 crore passengers. The Indian Railways provide the catering services thr-ough the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation.