The Ministry of Railways on Monday ordered its catering business, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to cancel all existing mobile catering contracts.
In a regulatory filing, the ministry directed IRCTC to terminate all existing contracts of mobile catering involving scope of work of providing cooked food to passengers prepared from base kitchens as per the existing terms and conditions.
As per a report in Livemint, citing COVID-19 situation, it further directed IRCTC to treat this case as an exception arising out of the pandemic situation and not to treat the case as contractor's default and hence no kind of fine should not be imposed 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 statement of the Railways comes after the issue of mobile catering being raised in a petition by members of Indian Railways' Mobile Caterers Association (ICRMCA) in the Madras High Court on 19 January, 2021. In that order, the Madras HC had directed the Indian Railways to consider the representation by IRMCA to restore their services, which have been suspended since lockdown was announced in March 2020.
The Ministry of Railways said that it examined the representation submitted by IRMCA dated 04.01.21. along with other relevant documents including tender documents, policy instructions etc.
On 11 February, a meeting with the IRMCA was also held in Ministry of Railways to hear their plea regarding the issue including their grievances. During the meeting, there was a unanimous request that they should be permitted to resume work on the trains held by them with license fee, or they may be allowed to operate under new the trains scope of work. i.e service of static units." the ministry further stated.
Earlier in January, IRCTC had announced that it will resume its e-catering services from February.
Due COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, e-catering services were suspended on March 22, 2020. The e-catering service was started in the year 2014 whereby passengers could order an array of food of their choice from reputed brands as well as popular regional and local delicacies on phone or online while travelling.