Eleven lakhs meal a day- a world record in the name of Indian Railways! Even though this number is quite inspiring, railways has always faced brickbats for its food services since years. The authorities have tried everything, from private operators to zonal railways, from e-catering to IRCTC, but the complaints are increasing with each passing day.
The Indian Railways received approximately 8,486 complaints in 2016 related to food and the number was 37% higher as compared to the previous year. Most travellers complained about price being an issue as they felt that the meals were overpriced and food quality came as the second factor for them.
Due to increasing presence of people on various social media platforms, the Railways is receiving a large number of complaints everyday. For instance, Twitter alone has around 200 food complaints on daily basis and we are sure that the Railway Ministry wants to change that number.
Number of plans and initiatives have been taken by the government to curb this issue but all in vain. Recently, the railways started a new catering policy for addressing the food problems of train passengers. There have been several instances where people have complained about the quality of food going from bad to worse which resulted in Railways penalizing the authorized caterers and the amount went up to Rs 12.67 crores.
During the late 90s, the catering operation was being managed by the zonal railways but with the increase in number of trains, direct involvement was getting tougher with every passing year. So, the Railways Ministry started roping in caterers or private vendors for outsourcing the train food.
In the year 1999, the Railway Minister then, Mr Nitish Kumar, launched IRCTC for providing food to railway passengers. However, the model was waved out when Mamata Banerjee took charge as Railway Minister in 2009-10. She implemented a new policy namely, The Catering Policy 2010 as per which major business went back to zonal railways.
Time and again, there have been many changes in the catering business/policies by the Indian Railways. The train passengers want a stable system which offers them good food (quality and quantity) at reasonable prices.