In response to a parliament agitated by the rotten quality of food served on Indian Railways, union minister D V Sadananda Gowda made a bland statement to the Lok Sabha that various steps are ''being initiated'', including imposing heavy penalties on entities serving unhygienic food on trains.
Acknowledging that there are many complaints about catering on trains, the railways minister said measures are being taken to serve "quality and hygienic food at reasonable and affordable rates".
He did not go into details of what these measures will comprise, nor did he say a word about ending the monopoly of the thoroughly corrupt Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corp (IRCTC) on railway catering.
"This (railway food service) is one area where we are getting so much of complaints such as catering facilities are not good, hygiene issues, overcharging for food and misbehaviour by caterers," Gowda told the house.
He said imposition of "stringent punitive action including heavy penalties in case of deficiencies in services" and quality assurance programmes by means of third-party audits are among the measures being taken.
He also mentioned a proposal to serve pre-cooked meals on trains.
"A pilot project for feedback of the passengers through Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) has been launched in five trains," he said during Question Hour.
According to Gowda, zonal railways are responsible for ensuring that quality and affordable food items are served to passengers through static and mobile units.
"A detailed mechanism for monitoring through regular, surprise and periodical inspections of the units has been put in place by the zonal railways.
"Catering Services Monitoring Cells have been set up for real time redressal of complaints on zonal railways," Gowda said.