Funds crunch stymies Mamata's dream

Rlys facing difficulty over implementing new catering policy

As part of the policy, Banerjee is keen on bringing back catering services in all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains from private licensees to the Railways. But infrastructure and funds are not adequate enough to take up the daunting task.

“The first challenge is to set up adequate infrastructure for catering to all the Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains totalling 32 in number,” the IRCTC managing director Rakesh Tandon told Deccan Herald.

 At present, the  Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation has only four base kitchens — one each in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Patna. The licensees have as many as 100 base kitchens from where they supply food to around 600 trains.

“We have to think of the economic viability as the departmental catering had been a loss-making body even a few years ago. For the government and public sector units, the HR costs are more than private entities. Moreover, adequate equipment/ material have to be procured,” he said.

Elaborating on the scale of new infrastructure, which should be in place before the new catering policy could be implemented and the private parties could be done away with, Rakesh Tandon said thaat at present the Delhi kitchen served only four Rajdhani Express trains — two to Mumbai, one to Howrah and another to Patna.

“If we need to serve 32 trains, we need at least 30/35 more base kitchens,” he said.
Moreover, technical upgrading of the existing base kitchens would also be required.
For example, there should be mechanised roti-makers and high-quality utensils to store food; the kitchens should be fitted with devices for temperature control which would preserve food and maintain taste as well as the healthy nutrients.

“We now transport food from kitchen to the trains in handcarts, but this is not a good option. We need insulated boxes and light-weight trolleys that could be used inside trains,” Rakesh Tandon said adding that waste-management and procurement systems should also be improved.

But the fund required for the entire process is mind-boggling, as the estimated cost of upgrading the Delhi kitchen alone would be Rs 5 crore.

While setting up new big-base kitchens would cost the IRCTC about Rs 10 crore each, a smaller set-up would be worth Rs 3 crore.

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