Three months into lockdown, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has removed 500 contractual supervisors that inspected food served at the station and in trains across India. The decision to terminate the services of these hospitality supervisors was made after a review meeting to gauge IRCTC’s performance.
Close to 560 supervisors (hospitality) were roped in by IRCTC in 2018 to maintain quality checks on contractors assigned to cater food in trains equipped with pantries. They also looked at food-related grievances raised on social media platforms and in train coaches.
Since a countrywide lockdown on March 23, nearly 1,200 long-distance passenger trains have remained suspended. Even with the present strength of 230 special trains, only pre-packed food items are being sold to passengers. A senior official from IRCTC said, “The lockdown has also hit IRCTC’s revenue, nil since the lockdown; under these circumstances, it was difficult to continue with supervisors, on whom the corporation was spending Rs 1.25 crore per month.”
The IRCTC, in a letter issued on June 25, notified its four zones, including East in Kolkata, West in Mumbai, South Central in Secunderabad and South in Chennai, that with a revised catering model, under the present circumstances, it has been decided that contractual hospitality supervisors are no longer required. This contractual staff is being issued a month’s notice and being served termination letters.
A supervisor deployed with the south central zone, who did not want to be named, said, “We are receiving calls from zonal offices, asking to come and sign the termination letter with no fault of ours. When we asked the reason for termination, we were told that they are just following orders from the corporate office.”
While these employees were given two-year contracts, a clause in their contract stated that they can be terminated if their performance is not up to the mark, on a month’s notice. Several supervisors said far from being poor performers, at a time when several railway employees were back home, they were tasked with food distribution in Shramik Specials and deployed round-the-clock, even late in the night.
Surabh Nagar, a supervisor with South zone, said, “With the effort we put during the running of Shramik Specials, we were told that we’ll get some incentive as frontline warriors but now we are being served termination letters.” South zone alone has 132 supervisors, who are being terminated.
Whereas, Aakarshan Dutta, another supervisor issued a termination letter, said, “There was no intimation about the decision. We received a letter from the corporate office in Delhi on June 25, after which termination letters were issued on June 26.”
When contacted, M P Mall, chairman and managing director of IRCTC, said, “Train operations have been shut since March, but we did not abruptly terminate contractual staff. The decision has only been made now when the industry outside is picking up, allowing them to find jobs elsewhere. All the terms of the contract have been followed.”
Officials from IRCTC also said as and when the need arose, supervisors will be hired at a later stage, but until then, their work will be assigned to in-house railway staff.
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