A recent application filed as a second appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by an activist has revealed that the Central Railways catering department purchased certain food items to stock their warehouses at several times the maximum retail price.
After railways 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 Rs.9,720. Mr. Bose had 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 CR. It appeared they wanted to cover something up. I filed an appeal and the appellate authority show-caused 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 said.
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 Rs.25, for Rs.972. In fact, the railways had bought most items at costs much than their MRP.”
The details pertain to items purchased by the railways catering department, which are stocked at the warehouse in CSTM and distributed to IRCTC’s Jan Ahar canteens, railway base kitchens and trains like Deccan Queen, Kurla-Hazrat Nizamuddin Express.
Mr. Bose alleged the railways was 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 Rs.72,034 in March 2016, or a litre of refined oil for ₹1,241. It also bought 150 packets of Tata Salt for Rs.2,670, or Rs.49 per packet instead of its then MRP of Rs.15, water bottles and soft drinks were for Rs.59 per bottle.
The RTI reply also revealed a distribution mismatch. While 250 kg of flour was purchased for Rs.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 canteen). 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 and other stations are running at a loss, but the RTI reply gives us the actual picture,” Mr. Bose said.
Ravindra Goyal, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), CR, said, “This must be a typing error, but I will look into the matter.” Subodh Jain, former General Manager, CR, 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 CR, 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 shows 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 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 officials involved.”
Source: The Hindu