R.D.Sharma Committee on Railway Catering Recommendations

The Railway is planning to revamp its existing catering policy to make train travel more comfortable and homely. In this context, a committee headed by Central Railway Chief Commercial Manager RD Sharma was constituted to consider the recommendations of Dr. Sreedharan Committee’s Report to hand over catering to IRCTC and to examine the entire gamut of issues pertaining to Catering services.

Rationale

The present state of catering has led to more loss than the profits. While the government has earned more income over the years through the license fee charged from private catering players, the losses incurred by handling catering services have also ballooned. Also, there is a widespread dissatisfaction regarding the quality of catering services offered on trains.

Timeline of events
  • 1980s: Indian Railways started to handle the major divisions of catering services.
  • 1990s: Private players were granted licenses to enter the catering market.
  • 1999: IRCTC was established by the government to professionalize catering after widespread dissatisfaction over the quality of services offered.
  • 2002-03: catering services were shifted to IRCTC from Indian Railways.
  • 2005: New catering policy comes to effect and catering was shifted from IRCTC to the Indian Railways.

Salient recommendations of the committee

The committee is in favour of giving back the catering services from the Indian Railways to IRCTC. The committee is of the view that this will help in ending the licensing raj. It has favoured the revamping of the existing catering policy on the ground that railways should not go to the extent of micromanaging and fixing the food menu on different trains. Important Recommendations are as follows:

  • IRCTC should be prohibited completely from licensing out catering to private players and increase revenue.
  • IRCTC may be allowed to outsource operations like support staff, service staff, cooks, transportation, packaging etc. But, it should deploy its managers on board to supervise services.
  • The present private licensees may exercise two options: Exit out contract without any liability or accept the new model of catering.

Recommendations check overcharging and catering:

  • Sale of a-la-carte items on trains shall be done only through e-catering to address the passenger complaints on overcharging and also to ensure availability of standard meals during travel.
  • The standard meals to be priced in the multiples of Rs.10 to prevent overcharging.
  • In order to provide choice to passengers, Zonal Railways and IRCTC should promote the sale of Read to Eat (RTE) food items on Maximum Retail Price. The zonal railways shall include a variety of items including regional cuisine in the standard meals within the price limit.
  • Proliferation of e-catering services to provide passengers with a wider choice at pre-fixed competitive prices.
  • Rationalization of prices to check overcharging and revision of catering rates in line with inflation.
  • Adequate supervisory powers over IRCTC to the Zonal Railways.
  • To provide tea/coffee kits to passengers on all trains as provided on premium trains.
  • Meals may be provided as an option on the Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains.

Status of implementation

According to reports, the railway ministry has started working to implement the recommendations of the panel. If the recommendations are accepted, then the pantry cars on trains may become a history and passengers would have a variety of food alternatives ranging from ready to eat (RTE) meals to local cuisines.

Announcement in recent budget

The recommendation of the committee related to the proliferation of e-catering services has already been included in Rail Budget 2016-17. Arrangements will be made for the phased introduction of station based e-catering services to widen the range of food options available to the passengers at all A1 and A category stations of the country.

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