The British-era architecture style ‘Souvenir Shoppe’ of the Northern Railways, with its slanting roof, red brick walls and vintage railway lamps, would often attract heritage lovers on platform number one of the New Delhi Railway Station.
Of late, however, the shop wears an empty look as most products have run out of stock due to an ongoing tussle between the National Rail Museum (NRM) and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) over procurement of souvenirs.
Opened in 2013, the shop was handed over to IRCTC in September 2018. Earlier, the NRM would look after the shop’s operations.
Officials from IRCTC and NRM said that as per the deal, IRCTC was supposed to procure artefacts after a year of the handover, and NRM had to ‘assist’ them for that period. However, after the stock got over, NRM tenders failed due to alleged changes in procedure, and IRCTC, too, failed to procure stock on its own, claimed officials.
NRM director Ashish Gundal said, “In the first phase of the handover, we had to assist IRCTC. It has been more than a year but they have not been able to stabilise things. There has been shortage of souvenirs at our end too as the procedure was changed…”
M P Mall, IRCTC chairman and managing director, however, said NRM holds expertise in procuring souvenirs and that it should assist IRCTC: “We cannot procure products without their help. I have been told that NRM tenders also failed…”
An IRCTC employee at the shop told The Sunday Express, “There has been no stock for nearly four months… all train models have been sold out. Customers often enquire about the stock, but we don’t know when we will get it.” He adds that products like models of vintage trains such as the Fairy Queen Express, Kalka-Simla toy train, postcards, heritage diaries, etc are always in demand. The souvenir shop was fetching at least Rs 70,000-Rs 1.5 lakh a month before it was handed over to the IRCTC.
At the railway souvenir shop in Shimla, which is still under NRM, an employee feared they too could face the same problem: “We, too, are running low on stock. Many products have not been restocked.”
Sources in the Railways said the Delhi and Shimla shops are the only souvenir outlets run at railway stations in the Northern region. The Delhi shop was handed over to IRCTC to “upscale operations as it was fetching good revenue”.
“Being a PSU, we thought IRCTC would be able to procure better products. The aim was to upscale this shop’s operations but the opposite has happened. They have failed to manage on their own,” said a senior railway official.