The railway ministry today cancelled a caterer’s contract after a passenger found a dead lizard in his vegetable biryani served on a Delhi-bound train from Howrah, a ministry spokesperson said. The passenger had ordered and eaten the dish without noticing the lizard but felt unwell later, a co-passenger, Meghna Sinha, said in a series of Tweets yesterday. “In view of the Railway’s zero tolerance policy towards poor quality and overcharging of food, the railway administration has terminated the contract of the catering contractor, R K Associates, for the Howrah-New Delhi Poorva Express,” Railway Ministry spokesperson A K Saxena told PTI.
Sinha had shot a photograph of the biryani packet, uploaded it on Twitter and tagged the Indian Railways. In another Tweet, she tagged Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. The ministry tweeted today that the catering contract on Poorva Express was given to R K Associates on May 15, 2014, for five years. The caterer was fined Rs 10 lakh last year and Rs 7.5 lakh, it said in another Tweet. The passenger, who had asked for the biryani when the train was near Jhajha, Bihar, also uploaded a complaint on Twitter. Responding to the complaint, the minister’s office asked the traveller for travel details. “Kindly share your PNR number,” it tweeted and tagged the concerned catering department.
The passenger underwent a health check-up in Patna, Buxar and then again at Mughalsarai in UP, where senior rail officers were also present, officials said. The spokesperson said in the last six months, the administration had terminated the contracts of eight catering units. “It is unprecedented the number of contracts that we have terminated in the past six months. In the last year, 16 such contractors were also blacklisted. We have also financially penalised the offenders,” Saxena said.
The incident comes days after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) slammed the railways for bad quality food, saying it was “unfit for human consumption”. Prabhu has also directed the administration to conduct special catering drives across the entire railway network starting today. Officials have been instructed to inspect pantries and base kitchens and take corrective measures wherever necessary. R K Associates on its website said it had been catering for the Railways “for the past two decade”.