Around 40 passengers travelling on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus-bound Tejas Express from Karmali in Goa were hospitalised on Sunday when they took ill after breakfast. The train was halted at Chiplun and the 40 passengers 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 tomato soup at noon. Of the 294 passengers, 230 opted for both the breakfast and the soup. The breakfast menu included an omelette, cutlet, juice, tea or coffee. Among those who fell ill were 15 passengers from Kolkata, who were travelling in a group.
The incident comes three months after the Comptroller and Auditor General said in an audit report that food served by Railways on trains and stations is “unfit for human consumption”. Officials of IRCTC, which manages catering for the train, said an inquiry was needed to assess why the passengers fell ill. “The food is cooked under suitable environment in the base kitchen under proper supervision,” a senior IRCTC official told The Indian Express. Officials added that the samples of food served in breakfast and the soup were sent for testing.
“My son complained of stomach pain after consuming the soup… He threw up blood. Though they were provided immediate medical attention, I am tense as he was admitted to the ICU,” said Raman Taing, who was returning with his family after a four-day trip to Goa.
Railway officials said passengers also eat from food stalls at stations before boarding the express train. “Our safety officer was present at the Madgaon branch of the licencee J K Ghosh when the food was prepared. He has reported that everything was normal and as per daily practice. He has also said many passengers taking the 9am train reach station early and eat outside or at the stalls in the station,” Pinakin Morawala, chief public relations officer, IRCTC, said.
Many of the passengers complained of vomiting and fatigue. “One patient suffers from excessive vomiting and diarrhoea. He is being given fluid management and antibiotics. The others are better now,” said Dr Vishnu Madhav of Lifecare Hospital. An IRCTC official said: “A show cause notice has been served to the catering contractor.”