The response to a recent RTI filed by an activist Ajay Bose has revealed that the Central Railways' (CR) catering department purchased certain food items at several times their actual market price.
The RTI reply revealed that food items like 100 gram packets of Amul curd have been purchased at Rs 14 crores for around 15336 units, which comes to Rs 972 per unit for 100 gram curd. Similarly, refined oil has been purchased at Rs 253 a litre, tur dal, moong dal at RS 157 per kilogram which is several times higher than the existing market price. Cold drinks and water bottles were also purchased at prices twenty to thirty times higher than their actual price.
The Central railway base kitchen, other than supplying food to railway restaurants supplies food to long distance trains, canteens and restaurants at various stations across the central railway. The base kitchen also provides food to the Janahar gruh which is a low cost food outlet run by the railway authorities.
Talking to India Today, the RTI applicant, Bose said "Initially, the RTI query filed by me got no reply from CR authorities after which I filed an appeal and then they finally revealed the data. I received the information from commercial department on April 10 and the facts it revealed were shocking".
PRIVATE CONTRACTORS IN PROFIT; CR DEPARTMENT IN LOSS
"The food products were bought at rates that were almost ten times higher than actual market price. Almost every product was bought at a price higher than its actual market price. However, all these products were sold to the canteens, trains and restaurants at the usual market price. This has led to huge losses for railways but I don't understand how none of this ever came to light. The private catering contractors are making profits while the CR catering department is running in huge losses," Bose added.
"The catering department does not float any tenders, hence all the raw materials and other products are bought from a particular supplier only. If due process was followed by floating tenders then the contracts would have been issued to the lowest bidder. Nevertheless, the railway authorities have turned a blind eye so far towards the losses incurred at LTT and CST terminus and also at the Janahar gruh and base kitchen," said Bose.
Bose has also mentioned that the scam could run into crores and despite monthly audits conducted by the department, the misappropriations never came to light. He also hinted at the role of some senior railway officials in the scam who are allegedly working hand-in-gloves with the suppliers of food items.
On an average, the CR catering department provides food to more than a lakh people through pantries, catering agents, canteens and restaurants everyday.