RTI Plea Reveals Railway Catering Scam, Authorities Deny Claims

The Logical Indian

May 2nd, 2017

Railway Catering Scam

Courtesy: The Hindu | Image Credit: blogspot | starsamachar

The Hindu reported a Right To Information (RTI) appeal filed by activist Ajay Bose on July 2016 which revealed massive corruption in the procurement of food by the catering department of the Central Railways (CR).

As the CR authorities failed to provide him with information on the purchase of food items sought in his RTI application, he filed a first appeal.

“I filed the application in July 2016, but didn’t get a reply from CR. It appeared they wanted to cover something up. I filed an appeal and the appellate authority show-caused the railways asking them to provide details sought by me within 15 days. Despite this, there was no reply even after several months,” said Mr Bose told The Hindu. 


The RTI showed several food items procured at inflated prices

Realizing that the Railways was deliberately ignoring his appeals in an attempt to hide facts, Mr Bose sought a second appeal which revealed that certain food items purchased to stock their warehouse were procured at eye-watering prices.

“This time, I received a reply with details, which were shocking: they purchased 100 grams of curd, which costs ₹25, for ₹972. In fact, the railways had bought most items at costs much than their MRP,” said Mr Bose.


Other items that were purchased at maximum retail price include, boneless chicken at Rs 233 per kg, tur dal and moong dal at Rs 157 per kg, refined oil at Rs 1,253 per litre, and soft drink and water bottles at Rs 59 per bottle. In March 2016, Tata Salt packets of Rs 15 were purchased at Rs 49 per packet.

A few items, however, were purchased at the correct MRPs including samosas, onions, and potatoes.

The RTI application was filed by Mr Bose after he learned about the massive losses incurred by the catering department of the Central Railways.


Stock Mismatch

The data from the RTI appeal also revealed a distribution mismatch – while the railways purchased 250 kgs of flour for Rs 7,680, it claimed to have distributed 450 kgs (90 kg to base kitchen and 360 kg to the IRCTC-run Jan Ahar canteen). Similarly, while only 20 kgs of maida were purchased, 35 kgs was shown as distributed, and 255 kgs of Basmati rice was purchased, but 745 kgs were shown as distributed to the base kitchen and the Kurla-Hazrat Nizamuddin Express.

The Jan Ahar Canteens and stalls at LTT and other stations are running at a loss, according to the Railway authorities, however, the RTI reply paints a different picture.

A senior railway official from New Delhi who has worked closely with CR, said, “This cannot be happening on paper as there are some scandals in the past in which CSTM catering was at fault. Every year, the railways show loss in crores of rupees, and the reason is such scams. These need to be looked into seriously.”


Railways denies the allegations

CR Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Ravindra Goyal, argued, “This must be a typing error, but I will look into the matter.”

CR also tweeted about the claims, denying the allegations.

The Railways clarified that due to typing errors, kgs were shown as grams in the RTI reply.

The total stock available was also misprinted in the RTI reply because only purchase was shown. However, total stock includes opening stock as well, added CR.

It further suspended the three inspectors from the commercial department who were involved in making the RTI reply.


The Logical Indian Take

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is the world’s fourth-largest network which provides meals to about 11 lakhs passengers daily. Following widespread complaints from passengers about the inflated prices of catering services, IRCTC had tweeted its rate card in March.

While this was a welcome move that helped clear a lot of queries, claims in the RTI reply pointed to corruption within the department.

This angered a many people as the burden of loss is ultimately borne by passengers. When the Railways procures a food item at the maximum retail price, the loss is balanced by increasing fares and decreasing passenger amenities.

This year, the Rail budget was merged with the Finance Budget and the government had announced a hoard of amenities that it plans to provide to passengers. However, the provisions laid down will only be possible if transparency in the services is ensured.

The Logical Indian urges the Central Railways to avoid such glitches in the future as they are misleading and a cause for commotion.

[Note: This article was published earlier and has been updated with the Central Railways reply to the corruption allegations.]

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