When will Indian Railways clean up their act?
Whether it is because this year (2007) has been declared as the “Cleanliless Year “by the Indian Railways or whether it is because of an initiative of a good samaritan I don’t know…but the fact is that there was a check on the railway kitchens of prominent trains like the Rajdhani and Shatabdi. The Delhi High Court appointed a “monitoring committee” and the committee’s report revealed what every regular traveler on Indian Railways already knows – that train kitchens are dirty. But the report has forced railway officials to acknowledge this fact officially.
The report was submitted after surprise checks were conducted on five train kitchens of these luxury trains. It was found that there was a “blatant disregard for food safety norms”. The report compared the kitchens to “road-side shops or dhabas”. Actually, roadside dhabas are pretty alright. The food is cooked right in front of your eyes and served immediately. In these trains the food was found to have been cooked 7-8 hours earlier (without running water or washbasins, no gloves) in dirty utensils and not referigerated inspite of the heat. The food was then re- heated before serving to customers. The garbage disposal mechanism in these kitchens was found to be “non-existent”. Thats not a surprise. Everything is thrown out into the countryside. I have seen garbage being thrown out of trains by the staff many a time.
The kitchens didn’t even have racks and shelves! This was odd, considering that the railways are spending so much money expanding their network.
It is a matter of pride that the Railway budget outlines such great plans for the future. It really is wonderful that 800 more coaches are to be attached to popular trains and there are plans to cushion seats in unreserved second class coaches. That there will soon be countrywide Train Enquiry call centres, expansion of reserved ticketing facilities, e-ticketing services through State Government’s e-services, petrol pumps, banks and ATMs and that 6000 Automatic Ticket Vending Machines will be installed in the next 2 years. Safety is getting attention as well – metal detectors, CCTV, and video cameras are to installed at sensitive places. There is also a plan to modernise 300 more stations.
Now all of this network expansion, modernization and technical upgradation is admirable, but I always thought that cleanliness came first. Isn’t that the policy you would follow in your own house?
But sadly, I didn’t read anything in the summary of the budget on refurbishing the kitchens or training staff to handle food. Or about cleaning up the shit on the rails. The picture below is taken at Mumbai Central Station just before the Rajdhani rolled in.
Related Reading: Railway stations to get a makeover
Profits at the cost of customers
Railway profits – but what about improvements for consumers?
The 90 advance ticket reservation is a disadvantage to consumers
E-ticketing on Indian Railways spirals!