The Ministry of Railways on Saturday said the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited has formed a new catering policy under which there will be separate service providers looking at the food preparation and its distribution. Catering Policy 2017 came into effect in February this year, the ministry said.

This comes a day after the Comptroller and Auditor General released a report critical of the food served by Indian Railways, saying it was “unfit for human consumption”.

The new policy will ensure that the IRCTC will upgrade the quality of food preparation, set up new kitchens and improve existing facilities, the ministry said in a statement.

The IRCTC will manage catering services on all mobile units and meals for them will be picked up from the nominated kitchens owned, operated and managed by the Railways’ catering arm, the statement said. It further said service providers from the hospitality industry will be engaged for service of foods in trains. The IRCTC will not outsource or issue licenses for provision of catering services to private licensees.

“IRCTC shall retain the ownership and shall be fully accountable for all the issues pertaining to setting up and operation of the base kitchens and quality of food,” the statement added.

The CAG report

The report had damning comments on the cleanliness and hygiene levels at the units that provided catering for the stations and in trains. “Unpurified water straight from tap was used in the preparation of beverages, waste bins were not found covered, not emptied regularly and not washed, food stuffs were not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust, rats and cockroaches were found in trains etc,” it said.

The audit examination, which was conducted from 2013-14 to 2015-16, said the quality of catering services had not improved over time. The report said this was largely caused by the constant changes in the government’s catering policy, which often means that the responsibility for train food keeps shifting from the railways to IRCTC and back.