Tuesday, 13 September 2011

'Veg railway canteens can't serve eggs or omelette'

Junagadh: In a reply to an application filed under Right to Information Act, the Indian Railways said that eggs or omelette can't be served in vegetarian restaurants or dining halls on railway platforms.

Junagadh-based RTI activist J P Shah had sought details of the agreement and rules about vegetarian restaurants on railway platforms from the railways.

"I happened to visit the vegetarian dining hall on platform no. 3 of Bharuch (Gujarat) railway station on November 30 last year, but I was shocked to see trays full of eggs. Being a Jain, I enquired with the contractor as to how eggs were being stored in a vegetarian dining hall. He informed me that he was permitted by the railways to serve omelette and eggs in this vegetarian restaurant and pointed out to the menu board which showed these items. I enquired from the deputy station superintendent on duty, but none of the staff was aware of the rules,'' Shah said.

Shah then filed an RTI application with the central public information officer of ministry of railways, New Delhi. "Recently, I have been supplied papers and information by additional divisional railway manager, Vadodara, in this regard and a copy of the agreement for refreshment room/restaurant on railway platforms. According to clause 21 of this agreement for vegetarian refreshment room/restaurant, the licensee (contractor) of Bharuch station is prohibited from serving or cooking or using eggs and products of eggs,'' Shah added.

According to the agreement, the Licensee[s] shall not sell or bring on the premises tinned or otherwise, cooked or uncooked beef or any other part of the cow's flesh, bacon, ham or pork. "The Licensee[s] shall not serve, cook or use fish, meat or eggs or their products in any form or shape in the vegetarian refreshment room and shall also ensure that cooking vessels and other utensils in the vegetarian refreshment room are not used for cooking or handling these articles. (This will apply to Vegetarian Refreshment Rooms only).''

"It is very sad that not only deputy station superintendent on duty was not aware of the exact position of storing, serving or selling eggs and its products in vegetarian refreshment rooms, officers at Vadodara were not aware of exact rules regarding this issue. In case there is change in policy or rules (and CPIO may not be knowing it), at least prominent notice boards outside and inside such halls should be exhibited stating that eggs or its preparations are sold here, so that passengers may decide whether to consume other items in such halls or not. Right to know is a consumers right under Consumer Protection Act,'' he added.

Shah has now filed a separate RTI application seeking copies of inspection reports if any carried out by railways of such restaurants to find out how such serious irregularity affecting the religious sentiments of passengers could not be located and checked by inspecting officials.

Shah recently wrote to additional general manager, Western Railway, Mumbai, and said that he will be shortly consulting advocates for filing a writ against railway administration on this issue for connivance or negligence on the part of railways to maintain sanctity of religion of passengers.

"I and my friends will be continuously visiting such halls to check compliance with rules of railways by licensees (contractors) on this score, as part of social audit. It is our right to know that what we are being served on platform and whether it hurts our religious sentiments,'' the RTI activist said.

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