A recent application filed as a second appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by an activist has revealed that the Central Railway’s catering department purchased certain food items to stock their warehouses at several times the maximum retail price.
After railway authorities failed to share information on purchase of food items sought in his RTI application, activist Ajay Bose filed a first appeal. The response to this revealed that each kg of Amul curd was purchased at an eye-watering ₹9,720. Mr. Bose filed his query after learning that the catering department was running at a huge loss.
“I filed the application in July 2016, but didn’t get a reply from Central Railway. It appeared they wanted to cover something up. I filed an appeal and the appellate authority showcaused the railways asking them to provide details sought by me within 15 days. Despite this, there was no reply even after several months,” Mr. Bose told The Hindu .
Realising that the department concerned was intentionally ignoring his appeal, Mr. Bose filed a second one. “This time, I received a reply with details, which were shocking: they purchased 100 grams of curd, which costs ₹25, for ₹972. In fact, the railways had bought most items at costs much than their MRP.”
The details pertain to items purchased and stocked at the warehouse in CSTM (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) and distributed to the IRCTC’s Jan Ahar canteens, railway base kitchens and trains such as the Deccan Queen and the Kurla-Hazrat Nizamuddin Express.
Mr. Bose alleged that the railways were incurring losses due to such scams. “I was provided with details after a long wait, and information for only a few months was shared though I had wanted it for a full year. Commodities like chicken with bone, tur dal, moong dal, besan and even tissue paper have been purchased at inflated costs.”
As per the reply, other commodities procured by the railways included 58 litres of refined oil for ₹72,034 in March 2016, or a litre of refined oil for ₹1,241. It also bought 150 packets of Tata Salt for ₹2,670, or ₹49 a packet instead of its then MRP of ₹15, water bottles and soft drinks were for ₹59 a bottle.
A few items, including samosas, onions and potatoes, however, were procured at the correct rates.
The RTI reply also revealed a distribution mismatch. While 250 kg of flour was purchased for ₹7,680, the railways claimed to have distributed 450 kg of flour (90 kg to base kitchen and 360 kg to the IRCTC-run Jan Ahar canteens). Similarly, 35 kg of maida was shown as distributed, though only 20 kg was purchased. It also bought 255 kg of Basmati rice, but said it distributed 745 kg to the base kitchen and the Kurla-Hazrat Nizamuddin Express.
“According to the railway reports, the Jan Ahar Canteens and stalls at LTT [Lokmanya Tilak Terminus] and other stations are running at a loss, but the RTI reply gives us the actual picture,” Mr. Bose said.
Divisional Railway Manager of the Central Railway Ravindra Goyal said, “This must be a typing error, but I will look into the matter.”
Subodh Jain, former General Manager of the Central Railway, said, “There is a proper channel for purchasing these items. The purchase committee finalise the rates.”
Requesting anonimity, a senior railway official from New Delhi who has worked closely with the Central Railway, said, “This cannot be happen on paper as there are some scandals in the past in which CSTM catering was at fault. Every year, the railways show loss in crores of rupees, and the reason is such scams. These need to be looked into seriously.”
Subhash Gupta, member, Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC) and its president, Rail Pravasi Sangh, said, “This is a very serious issue and needs to be looked into by senior railway authorities. So many items being purchased at higher costs and a difference in procurement and distribution cannot be typing mistakes. This has been happening since long and passengers are always the losers. Due to such scams, the railways claims it is running at a loss, increases fares and decreases passenger amenities. Action should be taken against the officials involved.”
Source – The Hindu