Indian Railways has directed its catering and ticketing arm to cancel all the existing contracts of mobile catering services providing cooked food to passengers. The decision was taken in the backdrop of a new normal of serving ready-to-eat in special trains.
"IRCTC is directed to terminate all existing contracts of mobile catering (currently kept in abeyance) involving scope of work of providing cooked food to passengers prepared from base kitchens as per the existing terms and conditions," Indian Railways declared in a regulatory filing on Monday.
"IRCTC is further directed to treat this case as an exception arising out of pandemic situation and not to treat the case as contractor's default and hence not impose any fine for not providing catering services and also return the Security Deposit (SD) and advance license fee in full after considering/adjusting valid dues, if any," the filing further added.
Following the coronavirus outbreak, the Indian Railways had stopped all railway traffic and associated services. As train services gradually resumed, in the form of special trains, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) had allowed ready-to-eat meals to be served to passengers.
Indian Railways Mobile Caterers Association (IRMCA) had requested resumption of the mobile units under regular contracts in the same manner in which the static units have been operationalised at reduced license fee. The Madras High Court had given the mandate to consider the representation by IRMCA, dated January 04, 2021, and pass the final orders on merit and in accordance with law.
"The Petitioner Association in their representation dated 04.01.21 has inter alia requested Railway Board/IRCTC to allow them to operate the mobile catering units under regular contracts in the same manner in which the static units have been operationalised at reduced license fee. Further to this, IRMCA however mentioned vide letters dated January 27, 2021, and February 8, 2021, that they are ready to run the trains under new scope of work. i.e. only Ready to Eat (RTEs)," Indian Railways said.
In a meeting on February 11, there was unanimous request that mobile caterers should be permitted to resume work (same reduced scope of work) on the trains held by them with license fee (as in the case of' static units), or they may be allowed to operate under new the trains scope of work, i.e. service of static units only RTEs with reduced license fee as in the case of static units, the statement further read.
"...since service of only RTEs constituted a different scope of work, IRCTC rightly awarded new short-term contracts through a tendering process. Having accepted that the scope of work is different, it is neither feasible nor prudent to allow contractors with a different scope of work to work these trains," Indian Railways said.
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