New Delhi: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday unveiled a new catering policy that holds Indian Railways’ catering unit responsible for a range of services and directs it to submit a business plan within a specified time frame, prescribing a penalty in case it fails to meet the deadline.
Under the Indian Railways Catering Policy 2017, the food production and distribution functions have been separated in an attempt to ensure that healthy and hygienic food is served on trains and railway platforms, following regular complaints against food quality.
The policy holds the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) responsible for catering services through mobile units, base kitchens, cell kitchens, refreshment rooms at A1 and A category railway stations, food plazas, food courts, train side vending and Jan Ahaars.
As per the policy, food will be prepared in state-of-the-art kitchens under IRCTC and distributed through service providers from the hospitality industry.
“This will be a marriage between the best of both worlds. Food can be cooked anywhere like the state-of-the-art kitchens of IRCTC in a hygienic manner using mechanized system. Food can be distributed using professionals from the hospitality industry. For making of food, SHGs (self-help groups) especially women SHGs can be used which will benefit them,” Prabhu said, while releasing the policy.
The public sector undertaking is to submit a business plan within 30 days from the date of issuance of the policy, which prescribes a penalty of Rs1 lakh per month per unit in case it fails to set up kitchens in the prescribed time.
The policy also states that IRCTC shall not outrightly outsource or issue licenses for provision of catering services to private licensees.
However, an IRCTC official, on condition of anonymity, said the government’s moves were a double setback and did not empower IRCTC at all. “First our main source of revenue i.e. booking charges have been waived off by the government during budget 2017-18, and now government wants us to have a business model ready which is revenue-based in just 30 days. We don’t have the manpower and resources to undertake this whole exercise in such a short stipulated time.”
The official said the Railway Board should have considered all the aspects before releasing the catering policy.
On menu and tariff, the policy does not give complete authority to IRCTC. Only menu and tariff for food plaza, food courts and fast food units will be decided and fixed by IRCTC, as per the policy. For trains such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto and Janta Meals, the decisions on menu and tariff would be taken in consultation with Railway Board and zonal railways. The policy emphasizes that regional cuisine should be served at the respective regional stations.
IRCTC, incorporated in September 1999, has been entrusted with activities such as catering and hospitality, internet ticketing, travel and tourism and packaged drinking water (Rail Neer).
The authorised share capital of the company is Rs50 crore and paid up share capital is Rs20 crore, fully-subscribed by ministry of railways.
IRCTC’s profit after tax for fiscal 2015-16 was Rs188.63 crore. As on 31 March 2016, its net worth stood at Rs542.07 crore