Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Finds Serious Flaws In The Quality of Catering Services Being Offered On Board Trains
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)report tabled in Parliament on Friday has found severe deficiencies in the catering services of the Indian Railways, with several stations and trains serving food items “unfit for human consumption”, unpurified tap water being used for food preparation, and food being left unprotected from insects and rats.
“Deficiencies in respect of quality of food served were noticed,” the CAG report noted. “Articles unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated foodstuff, recycled foodstuff, shelf life expired packaged and bottled items, unauthorised brands of water bottles, etc, were offered for sale on stations.”
During the joint inspection of the selected 74 stations and 80 trains over Zonal Railways, the audit found that cleanliness and hygiene standards were not being maintained in the catering units at stations and on trains.
“Unpurified water straight from the tap was used in preparation of beverages; waste bins were found not covered, not emptied regularly, and not washed; food stuffs were not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust; rats and cockroaches were found in trains,” the report added.
The CAG also found unfair trade practices at stations and in trains. Bills were not provided for the food items served on trains; waiters and catering managers on the trains did not carry printed menu cards with tariffs; the food served was less than the prescribed quantity; unapproved packaged drinking water was sold; and Proprietary Article Depot items were being sold in railway stations at their maximum retail prices.
The report also found that the weights and prices of the items sold at railway stations were different from the open market, and that the unit price of food articles sold in railway premises was significantly higher.
“For example, during a joint inspection in Allahabad station, it was found that chips of the brand ‘Lays’ weighing 29.5 grams was being sold at Neelam Food Plaza at the price of ₹18,” the report said. “Identical product outside railway premises weighing 30 grams costs only ₹10.”
The report went on to cite many other such cases where the food items were either overpriced or were below the prescribed weight. “Audit observed that though a complaint redressal system has been put in place, there is no reduction in the number of complaints over the years,” the report said. “It was also seen that the major share of complains pertained to overcharging and quality issues.”
During a passenger satisfaction survey, 36% felt that they were being overcharged for the food, and 21% that the rates were not reasonable