It refers to a committee suggesting rise in food-cost served in trains by up to 40 per cent. But any such rise unnecessarily penalises those passengers who do not wish to avail food served in trains due to various reasons including peculiar food-choice like without onion and garlic or not taking sweet-dish for being diabetic etc., because in selected premium trains like Shatabdi, cost of food is compulsorily charged with ticket-cost although now passengers travelling in Rajdhani Express have option for having tickets with or without food-cost. Such an option for not paying food-cost should be applicable universally in all trains. It may be recalled that only recently optional sweet dish of hot Gulab-Jamun was decided in place of usual Ice-Cream in case passenger does not want to take Ice-cream due to conditions like weather, liking, suitability etc. Move was aimed to prevent left-out packed Ice-cream cups being kept by serving-staff. It is a usual practice that serving staff earns money by selling such unused packed food-items left by passengers to others desiring extra either at cost or by way of tips. But Indian Railways has not taken into account large number of diabetic passengers who will neither take Ice-cream nor Gulab-Jamun or any other sweet dish. Even many passengers do not take even food-trays because of their avoiding onion and garlic.
Already most airlines have replaced food-serving by selling variety of packaged food-items according to choice of passengers. Indian Railways should stop practice of compulsorily charging food-cost in select trains, and start selling packaged branded food by giving some sale-commission to serving-staff, eliminating begging tips by serving-staff. Scope of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) should be increased for manufacturing bakery-items and other such items by setting manufacturing-units in different parts of country. One-time planned investment will create huge employment-opportunities and increased revenue-earnings for Indian Railways. Rather IRCTC then can take charge of mid-day-meal in schools where complaints of inferior food and finding dead insects, rats, lizards etc. are quite common.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)