BY THE middle of next year, MPs visiting the Parliament’s canteens will be in for a pleasant surprise.
For the first time, the Railways has decided to overhaul its service in these canteens by recruiting 101 new staff who have undergone training at reputed hotel management institutes.
According to a new policy decision, Parliament catering staff to be recruited by the Railways will have to be holders of diplomas in food production, food and beverage service or bakery and confectionery, or be graduates in hotel administration. These include chefs, kitchen help, waiters and bakers.
Apart from Class X-pass, the eligibility criteria also cover those who have completed courses in cooking (continental, Indian and general) and hospitality assistance. These courses have to be approved by the National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology, the autonomous body under the Union Tourism Ministry.
“By including these criteria in the recruitment rules to source highly skilled manpower from the market, the quality of catering in Parliament will significantly improve and Railways will earn the goodwill of MPs,” a senior government official told The Indian Express.
The change was notified earlier this month, and officials estimate that the new recruits will start work by the 2018 monsoon session of Parliament.
Of the sanctioned strength of 417 catering staff for Parliament, there is a 25 per cent vacancy translating into about 100 slots, which have not been filled over the years. “This has resulted in a drop in service levels as adequate number of staff is not available to service Honourable Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, Honourable Speaker of Lok Sabha, Honourable Chairman of Rajya Sabha, etc.,” says an internal note of the Railway Ministry.
The existing practice has been to source manpower from the Railways’ general pool of Group D staff who are not trained for hospitality service and mostly learn on the job.
“Such optees of Group D staff of Northern Railway (which manages the Parliament canteens) do not have any catering skill and are absolutely raw, which severely impacts the quality of catering services provided in Parliament House,” says the note detailing the deliberations prior to the policy change.
The cost of running the canteens is borne by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats, including that of manpower. Railways gets the funds from the Finance Ministry processed through Parliament.
The Railways expects a “huge response” because the salary and perks of government jobs in this category are much higher than what holders of these qualifications get in the open market, according to officials.
Food in Parliament canteens for MPs is highly subsidised: Tea is sold for Rs 3, Dal for Rs 5, a vegetarian meal for less than Rs 50 and mutton biryani, the costliest item, for Rs 80. The subsidy is borne by government and the Railways does not incur any losses.