IRCTC to pay Rs 30,000 fine for serving food with insects to passenger

IRCTC to pay Rs 30,000 fine for serving food with insects to passenger

The Indian Railways just can't seem to catch a break, be it unfortunate accidents that have cost lives or contaminated and poor quality food being served to passengers.

Coming on the heels of the food poisoning incident aboard the Tejas Express, the UT consumer forum has imposed a penalty of Rs 30,000 on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) in a case related to serving a Kalka-New Delhi Shatabdi Express passenger his meal in an unhygienic manner, the Indian Express reported on Tuesday. According to the report, the passenger had alleged that the meal was contaminated with dead insects.

According to the national daily, out of the Rs 30,000 fine, the forum directed that IRCTC should pay Rs 10,000 as compensation to the passenger for harassment and litigation charges, while depositing Rs 20,000 with the Institute for the Blind in Chandigarh. Further, the forum ordered IRCTC to refund the Rs 130 catering charges included in the complainant's ticket price.

The alleged incident, the report said, occurred on June 9, 2016, when P P Singh was travelling by the Kalka-New Delhi Shatabdi Express to Chandigarh. According to the national daily, in his complaint, Singh alleged that the onboard meal was served to him in an unhealthy and unhygienic manner. Speaking to the newspaper, Singh said: "After eating a few morsels of parantha with cheese gravy, I opened the lids of other food items, i.e. dal and rice, and was shocked to notice the presence of some dead insects and foreign matter in the same. I showed the same to the catering staff, who felt apologetic and removed the tray containing contaminated food items."

Poor food quality and passengers falling ill due to consuming railways' meals has been plaguing the national transporter. On October 15, as many as 40 passengers on board the Mumbai-bound Tejas Express from Goa fell ill after breakfast due to food poisoning, according to an agency report that cited a senior official of the Konkan Railway.

The train was stopped at the Chiplun station in Maharashtra and all ailing passengers were admitted to the city's Life Care hospital.

The Indian Railways has ordered an enquiry into the incident of food poisoning. The railway ministry has served a showcause notice on the catering contractor and said strict action would be taken if the contractor is found guilty.

In response to the food quality complaint, the IRCTC, in a series of tweets, had said: "Food samples have been taken for investigation. A total of 230 breakfast (117 Vegetarian + 113 Non Vegetarian) have been served."

"Director Catering services is proceeding to Mumbai to follow up the matter. Follow of action and monitoring is being done to ensure proper assistance."

The Tejas Express incident came just two months after the Railways changed its catering practices in a bid to assure quality.

As reported earlier, the Indian Railways will follow the aviation sector’s model to ensure quality food is served to passengers.

Back in August this year, the national transporter was mulling options to discard kitchens on running trains and, instead, shift food preparation to base kitchens run by the Railways.The move came after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said railway food was unsuitable for human consumption.

According to a roadmap drawn up by IRCTC, the plan is to rope in multinational players that operate lounges in airports across the world, such as French food services and facilities management company Sodexo and Travel Food Services (TFS). IRCTC might also engage service providers from the hospitality industry to serve food on trains.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has been asked to come out with a roadmap to develop base kitchens and ensure quality service on trains.