The catering department of Central Railway paid as much as Rs9,720 for each kg of Amul curd and up to Rs1,241 for a litre of refined oil as the department opened its purse strings to stock its warehouses several times over the past, if a reply to a recent TRI application filed by an activist is anything to go by.
However, according to the railway ministry, the correct info is Rs970 for a carton containing 108 cups of curd (and not a kg of curd as stated by the RTI activist) while the purchase of refined oil was done at Rs1,241 for a tin of 15 kg or Rs82.7 a litre (and not at Rs1,241 a litre as the RTI report said).
Besides, according to the RTI report, 58 litres of refined oil the department bought for Rs72,034 in March 2016, it also bought 150 packets of Tata Salt for Rs2,670 and water bottles and soft drinks at Rs59 a bottle.
A few items, including samosas, onions and potatoes, however, were procured at the prevailing market rates.
The report comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled up the railways over its various acts of corruption.
The reply to a second appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by activist Ajay Bose points to massive corruption in food procurement by the Railways, says a report in The Hindu.
After railway authorities failed to share information on purchase of food items sought in his RTI application, Bose filed a first appeal. The response to this revealed that each kg of Amul curd was purchased at Rs9,720.
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 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,'' Bose told The Hindu.
Bose told the paper that he filed a second appeal as the department chose to ignore his first appeal.
''This time, I received a reply with details, which were shocking: they purchased 100 grams of curd, which costs Rs25, for Rs972. In fact, the railways had bought most items at costs much than their MRP,'' the report quoted Bose as saying.
The RTI query related to items purchased and stocked at the warehouse in Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CSTM) 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, says the report.
However, Bose alleged that the Railways still refused to part with the entire information and instead provided details for only a few months of the year and the entire loss could be assessed only after getting the full information.
This could be the tip of an iceberg and there could be an even bigger scam that is well covered up by railway officials involved in such dealings, the reports said.
''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.''
The RTI reply also pointed to a distribution mismatch. While 250kg of flour was purchased for Rs7,680, the Railways claimed to have distributed 450kg of flour (90 kg to base kitchen and 360 kg to the IRCTC-run Jan Ahar canteens). It also purchased 20 kg of maida while the distribution made was 35 kg.
The ministry of railways, however, did not clarify a distribution mismatch based on the RTI information.
Similarly, 35 kg of maida was shown as distributed, though only 20 kg was purchased. It also bought 255kg of Basmati rice, but said it distributed 745kg to the base kitchen and the Kurla-Hazrat Nizamuddin Express.
''According to the Railway reports, the Jan Ahar Canteens and stalls at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) and other stations are running at a loss, but the RTI reply gives us the actual picture,'' Bose said.
Divisional railway manager of the Central Railway Ravindra Goyal said, ''This must be a typing error,'' but said, ''I will look into the matter.''
Subodh Jain, former general manager of the Central Railway, said the purchases follow set procedures and the rates are approved by the purchase committee.