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For a hygienic track - CAG report on Railways

The Comptroller and Auditor general (CAG) report on Indian railways should compel a quick upgrade of passenger services. Among the most affordable transport systems in the world, Indian railway network carries millions of people every day, linking the remotest destinations.

The report of CAG on catering services highlights how nothing has changed in the system. The health of passengers is being endangered because of the following reasons

  • Food unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated and recycled items are being sold in trains and station premises
  • Packaged articles past their use-by date and unauthorized items are also being sold on trains
  • Contractors overcharge users by selling packaged food items at inflated prices within railway premises

Steps taken by Railway administration to enhance passenger services:

  • Railway administration has constituted a grievance redressal mechanism to penalize agencies such as the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation(IRCTC) (A fine of 1 lakh, levied on IRCTC for the presence of a cockroach in food supplied on the Kolkata Rajdhani Express three years ago did not result in any significant reform)
  • A mechanism has also been constituted wherein passengers can file their complaints
  • Private sector participation in food supply is aimed at resolving issues linked to departmental catering. A new catering policy has been recently unveiled by the railways

What needs to be done to reform passenger services:

  • The process of identifying caterers, fixing prices, and ensuring quality control should be transparent and monitored by external auditors
  • Independent oversight can potentially improve other aspects of service as well, such as the quality and maintenance of linen, that has been found to be substandard
  • Any reform should include the open access character of rail travel, as coaches are open to unlicensed vendors who sell food, water and other goods

Broad reforms suggested by the Bibek Debroy committee:

  • Improving accountability, decentralizing power and setting up an independent railway regulator (The Union cabinet has approved setting up an independent rail regulatory authority to determine tariffs)
  • Merging the railway budget with the union budget (already implemented)
  • Commercial accounting to ensure that the rate of return on projects can be calculated, this will help attract private capital in railways
  • The projects that fulfill social objectives should be quantified and funded from budgetary resources

 

Read 801 times Last modified on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 15:43

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