Railway minister Piyush Goyal’s grand plan to live-stream IRCTC base kitchen activities is unlikely to be meet the target deadline of July, going by a top official on Friday.
“In the coming weeks, IRCTC (the catering arm of Indian Railways) will award the contract on technological cooperation to implement the plan. The system is unlikely to become operational during the current financial year,” the two-decade-old organisation’s chairman-cum-managing director Mahendra Pratap Mall in Delhi told Outlook.
Earlier this week, the minister had, faced with a barrage of complaints from train travellers on the poor quality of the onboard catering services, announced a futuristic and ambitious plan of using artificial intelligence systems to analyse footage of base kitchens in order to make such data available to train passengers on a real-time basis.
The IRCTC head now indicates that this won’t happen as per plan. “For the moment, the IRCTC has decided to invite a select group of passengers each day to visit the base kitchens at the boarding, deboarding stations, or even at midway stations,” Mall said.
Goyal’s idea is unlikely to emerge as a one-stop solution to issues of bad-quality food for other reasons as well. For one, food packets are served to passengers from several other sources, besides from the base kitchens of the IRCTC that handles catering besides tourism and online ticketing operations of the 1845-founded Indian Railways. Private caterers, too, run such kitchens and these companies are reluctant to put up cameras and share footage on cooking practices in their kitchens. Apart from this, 336 pairs of trains provide pantry-car services—in conditions that some have shown are far from hygienic. Pantry-car coaches are not air-conditioned; they are ill-equipped as well.
Unauthorised vending at stations provides another problem area, as there is no monitoring on the food supplied by such sellers. “Rail catering system needs to be tackled in a wholesome manner,” admitted a senior official with the Railways, under which the 1999-instituted IRCTC operates.