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New railway catering policy to separate food distribution and cooking

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-02-2017 PTI

New Delhi: The Railways on Monday unveiled a new catering policy separating its cooking and onboard food distribution sections.

Flooded with complaints on the food quality, the railways replaced the existing policy after seven years giving back onboard catering responsibility to Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp. Ltd (IRCTC) for majority of trains, including all the new ones.

Announcing the new policy, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said, “It has been finalised after consultation with all stakeholders as we want to provide the best catering services and under hygienic condition.”

The existing policy, which had relieved IRCTC from onboard catering responsibility, was effected in 2010 by the then railway minister Mamata Banerjee. While the food will be prepared at state-of-the-art base kitchens, it would be distributed through service-providers from the hospitality industry, according to the policy which aims to attract reputed food-chain players from the market.

“In this new catering policy, food production and food distribution will be delinked. This will be a marriage between the best of both worlds. Food can be cooked anywhere like the state-of-the-art kitchens of IRCTC in a hygienic manner using mechanised system. Food can be distributed using professionals from the hospitality industry. “IRCTC would begin to manage catering service in a phased manner. IRCTC would unbundle catering services,” Prabhu had announced in the 2016-17 Rail Budget.

Railway catering policy-2017 also empowers the IRCTC to fix menu and tariff in consultation with Railway Board. In order to achieve social objective, the policy allows 33% sub-quota for women in allotment of stalls at all stations. Milk stalls would be alloted at all stations through open tender, according to the new policy. Besides, self-help groups will also be empanelled in catering services to promote employment opportunities in various regions.

Stringent guidelines have been incorporated in the policy to set up base kitchens at major junctions and also to restrict IRCTC from outsourcing private licensees outright. Perpetual renewal of food stalls at stations has been done away with and the new policy envisages that tenure of stalls shall be of five years only. The new policy also encourages e-catering system.

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