Indian Railways has dismissed the catering contractor for the premium Swarna Jayanti Ahmedabad Rajdhani in the wake of several complaints about the quality of food over the last few months. The move comes after a BJP MP from Gujarat raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha. Rail PSU IRCTC took over the food service of the train from Friday. Official data reveals that 133 complaints related to food were received from the Swarna Jayanti Ahmedabad Rajdhani in the past seven months. The train is used by MPs from the state — almost all of whom are from the BJP — as well as other state BJP and RSS functionaries and businessmen.
The zonal railways had been slapping the Varanasi-based Ambuja Caterers with repeated financial penalties for lapses in quality. The combined penalty in the last six months amounted to Rs 9.5 lakh — an unusually high amount for any catering contractor managing a train. Of this amount, about Rs 8.3 lakh has been realised.
According to sources, Ambuja exerted political pressure on Railways to save its contract. It allegedly claimed close ties with BJP bigwigs, including a senior Union Cabinet minister. However, its track record of complaints stacked up over time. Shankarbhai Vegad, the MP who had raised a question on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, recently met Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and sought a pardon for the contractor on the plea that more than 100 employees would be rendered jobless.
“All MPs from Gujarat had given feedback in writing that the quality had improved in the past couple of months and that we would not want to rob poor people of their livelihood,” Vegad told The Indian Express. “I had only asked for improvement in service in the train.”
The Rajya Sabha question turned out to be the last nail for Ambuja, which was served a showcause notice and then asked to leave.