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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Amid tussle between NRM & IRCTC, railways’ souvenir shop at New Delhi station in trouble

Opened in 2013, the shop was handed over to IRCTC in September 2018. Before, that the National Rail Museum (NRM) was looking after the shop's operations.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana, New Delhi | Updated: December 11, 2019 1:02:49 pm
Railways souvenir shop at New Delhi railway station platform number 1. (Photo: Divya Goyal)

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 one of the New Delhi Railway Station.

The models of heritage trains like ‘Fairy Queen Express’, Kalka-Shimla Toy Train etc and several other products like heritage diaries, coffee table books, postcards of steam engines chugging in picturesque hills, pocket watches, coffee mugs etc displayed on its windows, the shop would take visitors back in the times as they waited for the train.

Of late, however, the shop wears a near empty look as most products have run out of stock due to an ongoing tussle between the National Rail Museum and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) over procurement of souvenirs. The shop was completely out of stock for four months till November this year, forcing passengers to return empty-handed even as they enquired about train models etc.

Railways souvenir shop at Simla railway station. (Photos: Pradeep Kumar)

Opened in 2013, the shop was handed over to IRCTC in September 2018. Before, that the National Rail Museum (NRM) was looking after the shop’s operations.

Officials from NRM said 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.

And now, both NRM and IRCTC are clueless over how products would be procured next and a decision is yet to be taken.

At the railway souvenir shop in Shimla which is still under NRM, an employee said: “We, too, are running low on stock. Many products have not been restocked.” (Photos: Pradeep Kumar)

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 haven’t been able to stabilise things. There has been shortage of souvenirs at our end too as the procurement procedure was changed and tenders were made online…”

M P Mall, IRCTC chairman and managing director, however, said that 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 but even then we would be needing their assistance in future. We are working it out…”

An IRCTC employee at the shop told The Indian 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 like Fairy Queen Express, Kalka-Simla toy train, postcards, heritage diaries etc are always in great demand. Opened in 2013, this souvenir shop was fetching at least Rs 70,000 to Rs 1.50 lakh a month before it was decided to handover the shop to IRCTC in September 2018.

Railways souvenir shop at Simla railway station. (Photos: Pradeep Kumar)

At the railway souvenir shop in Shimla which is still under NRM, an employee said: “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 in 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 Public Sector Undertaking (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.

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