GANAPATHI BHAT, AKOLA
THE pathetic quality of food served on trains has become part of folklore. The topic has become so common that it has turned stale like the food dished out on trains. But the Indian Railways regularly comes out with ‘remedial action taken’ explanation which is nothing more than a desperate attempt to win the commuters’ confidence back. The so–called ‘unbundling’ of catering, where preparation and distribution of food was separated, seems to have had no impact on the Railways. Three instances reveal why the Railways food could be dangerous to lives. On January 7, 36 passengers on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express took ill after consuming the food ordered by them. Four days later, on the prestigious Tejas Express, five passengers felt uneasy and giddy after they ate pulao. The food, which came at the Chiplun station, was said to be packed in a container at the station in piping hot condition without being allowed to cool: an irresponsible, and miserable, explanation of the Railways. On the same day, a passenger on the Dadar-Goa Janshatabdi Express complained she had received bread with fungus as food. The narration of the Railways was the same. Many long-distance commuters bring their own food to save themselves from woeful train food. The Railways has stated it has fined the food contractor responsible for the spoilt food. However, the same old story may repeat after some time. The Railways should ponder over complaints like rats and cockroaches occupying the pantry car, unused food materials and used bins remaining uncovered, and the unclean and unprofessional approach of the kitchen staff. Sometimes, even a cup of tea is repelling. It is appalling to spot food items, waiting for distribution, left near the toilets. Railways’ past explanation that only a few passengers complain about the food quality when more than 10 lakh meals are served per day is condemnable and laughable. In a public transport, not a single passenger’s health can be compromised.