Around 40 passengers, 15 of them from Kolkata, travelling on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus-bound Tejas Express from Karmali in Goa on Sunday were hospitalised when they took ill after breakfast. The train was halted at Chiplun and the passengers were taken to a hospital. Twenty-four among them are still admitted. According to some of the passengers, they were served breakfast at 9.30 am followed by vegetable tomato soup at noon. Of the total 294 passengers, 230 opted for both, the breakfast and the soup. The breakfast menu included an omelette, cutlet, juice, tea and coffee. The incident of passengers’ illness comes three months after the Comptroller and Auditor General said in an audit report that the Indian Railways served food on trains and stations that is “unfit for human consumption”.
Officials of IRCTC, which manages the catering service for the train, said an inquiry needed to be done to assess the reason why the passengers fell ill. “The food is cooked under suitable environment in the base kitchen under proper supervision all time,” a senior IRCTC official told The Indian Express. Officials added that the food sample of breakfast and soup was sent for testing.
“My son opted for soup in the train after which he complained of stomach pain…. He threw up blood. Though they were given immediate medical attention, I am tensed about my son as he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit,” Raman Taing said. His son Purohit was admitted to Lifecare Hospital. The Taings were returning from a four-day trip in Goa.
Railway officials said passengers also eat from food stalls at stations before boarding the train. “Passengers also reach station before time and eat food items from outside stalls as train departs at 9 am. Further, our safety officer from Madgaon station was also available today at the Madgaon branch of the licencee J K Ghosh at the time of food preparation. He has reported that everything was normal. He has also reported that as the train departs late at 9 am many passengers came early and consumed breakfast from the station or outside. This was also confirmed by on board manager Ashish who regularly monitors this train,” Pinakin Morawala, chief public relations officer, IRCTC said.
Many of the passengers complained of vomiting and energy loss. “One patient suffers from excessive vomiting and diarrhoea. He is being given fluid management and antibiotics. The rest are better now,” said Dr Vishnu Madhav of Lifecare. An official in IRCTC said: “A showcause notice has been served to the catering contractor and strict action is contemplated if found guilty.”