SERVING MEAL to a Chandigarh-bound passenger in an unhygienic manner on board Kalka-New Delhi Shatabdi Express has cost the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) dear. And, to top it all, the meal was allegedly contaminated by dead insects.
The UT consumer forum imposed a penalty of Rs 30,000 on IRCTC. The forum directed that out of Rs 30,000 fine, IRCTC shall pay Rs 10,000 as compensation to the complainant for harassment and litigation charges, and deposit the remaining Rs 20,000 with the Institute for the Blind, Sector 26, Chandigarh. The forum also directed IRCTC to refund Rs 130 catering charges included in the complainant’s Rs 521 ticket price from New Delhi to Chandigarh.
The incident dates back to June 9, 2016, when a Sector 11-A resident, P P Singh, was travelling by train. In his complaint, he alleged that the meal was served to him on board in an unhealthy and unhygienic manner, the food was loosely packed and dal/gravy got spilled in the wet and dirty tray.
Narrating his plight, Singh said that “after eating a few morsels of parantha with cheese gravy, I opened the lids of other food items, i.e. dal and rice, and was shocked to notice the presence of some dead insects and foreign matter in the same. I showed the same to the catering staff, who felt apologetic and removed the tray containing contaminated food items”.
He said that he refused to take the replaced meal as the food belonged to the same lot. “As a result, I had to remain hungry during the journey despite having paid for the meal,” he added in his complaint.
Singh, in his complaint, also mentioned that passengers on Kalka-New Delhi Shatabdi Express are provided food on board as a compulsory precondition and the price of the compulsory food is included in the ticket charges and this act of forced sale of meal amounts to unfair trade practice.
Thus, he filed a complaint alleging deficiency in service and unfair trade practice on part of the Indian Railways and IRCTC.
IRCTC in its reply denied all the allegations and said that the catering service in New Delhi-Chandigarh Shatabdi Express is provided by Northern Railway post Catering Policy 2010 and as such they have no control over the catering service.
The respondents in the case, the Divisional Railway Manager, Northern Railways, Ambala, Station Master, Railway Station, Chandigarh, and Deputy Train Superintendent Vimal Sharma, too, filed joint replies denying presence of any insects in the meal, and reiterated that “the food was packed to its quality and quantity, and the allegation that during multiple handling and storage, liquid items like dal got spilled in the tray, the claim thereof is not correct and the food was served in a most hygienic and in a most presentable manner upto the standards”.
The forum, however, rejected all the pleas made by the IRCTC against the complainant for not clicking any photographs of the infected/ contaminated food. However, IRCTC could not provide any evidence in the forum of taking any action on the complaint made by the passenger — one through SMS and another in the complaint book.