Railway passengers find hike in food prices hard to digest
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With the Indian Railways increasing the rates of food items in pantry cars by 25-40 per cent, passengers are finding the hike rather unpalatable. The new rates, which came into effect on October 11, have been attributed to the increased LPG prices. Food plazas had already increased their rates from October 1.
This has further increased the fare for trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Durunto. "They may have increased the rates, but there is absolutely no improvement in the quality of food. Due to this, people prefer to visit private food malls, where the rates are exorbitant," said Harsha Shah, chairperson, Railway Pravasi Group. "If the railways can provide food at exceedingly cheap rates to parliamentarians and Rail Bhavan officials, then why are passengers and its own workers in trains and on platforms given stepmotherly treatment?"
"The central government increased VAT and service charges. Railways has to abide by the central government orders," said Y K Singh, PRO, Central Railway. At present, railways has imposed a service charge of 8.6 per cent and VAT of 5 per cent on food items. Barring tea, coffee, packaged items and mineral water, the rate of other food items has been increased. Some items like vegetable cutlet have seen a 100 per cent hike in its price, said Shah.
The Jan Ahar stalls run by the railways, too, are facing problems. "The Jan Ahar's subsidised food is meant for passengers. However, mostly rickshawallahs, beggars and outsiders are consuming it. We are incurring losses to the tune of Rs 5 lakh per month in Pune region. For the Indian Railways, the loss is Rs 15 crore per month," said Shah.
Railways must open a Jan Ahar stall at all platforms instead of only platform 1 to ensure more passengers can access them and make sure that outsiders are not allowed, Shah said.
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