Every now and then, scams of some government department or the other hit the headlines. This time, it is the catering department of Central Railways, which has been known for several other rip-offs in the past.
As per a report by The Hindu, activist Ajay Bose has brought to light a huge scam going on in the catering department of Central Railways through a Right to Information appeal.
According to the response to this appeal, the department purchased 1 kg Amul curd at a whopping 9,720 rupees. There were several other items purchased at prices way higher than their Maximum Retail Price (MRP). For instance, 58 liters of refined oil was bought for Rs.72,034 and 150 packets of Tata salt were bought for Rs.2,670 which is more than three times the price of these items. There were only a few items such as onions, potatoes etc. that were bought at correct prices.
Bose filed the RTI query in July 2016 after coming to know that the catering department had been incurring huge losses. However, there was no response to his query by the authorities. Therefore, the activist went on to file his first appeal.
The Hindu quoted Bose as saying,
I filed the application in July 2016, but didn’t get a reply from CR. It appeared they wanted to cover something up. I filed an appeal and the appellate authority show-caused the railways asking them to provide details sought by me within 15 days. Despite this, there was no reply even after several months.
Realizing that his appeal was intentionally ignored by the department, Bose went on to file the second appeal to which the department replied. The reply had details of items purchased by the railway catering department to be stocked in the warehouse and distributed to Indian Railways canteens, base kitchens and trains.
Bose firmly holds that the losses in railway’s catering department is a result of this scam. He says,
I was provided with details after a long wait, and information for only a few months was shared though I had wanted it for a full year. Commodities like chicken with bone, tur dal, moong dal, besan and even tissue paper have been purchased at inflated costs. According to the railway reports, the Jan Ahar Canteens and stalls at LTT and other stations are running at a loss, but the RTI reply gives us the actual picture.
Instead of sharing the information on purchases for the whole year as sought by the appeal, the department shared only a few months’ details. The reply to the appeal also revealed that there were mismatches in the stock. The quantities purchased and quantities supplied for many items such as flour, maida, rice, etc. did not match.
As usual, the concerned authorities have denied the scam saying that it could be a typing error and they will “look into the matter”. This is not the first time that there has been a scam in railways or a government department of India. They have continued to happen since decades but there needs to be halt somewhere! And this should not need initiatives of activists such as Ajay Bose but a responsible attitude of officials managing and supervising departments.