Stating that she had been receiving a large number of complaints including those from MPs and passengers on the quality of food being served on trains, Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee told the Rajya Sabha on Friday that a new catering policy was being worked out and would be announced shortly.

Replying to supplementaries during question hour in Rajya Sabha, Ms. Banerjee said about 1,400 complaints had been received. “A new catering policy is under review and within a few days we will announce it,'' she said.

She said Janata Ahar Centres and Janata Meal have been introduced at five places to provide eatables at affordable price to passengers at railway stations. Doctor with paramedic staff were has been provided in all Duronto trains as a pilot project, she said. ‘Extension of the services would be considered on the outcome of the pilot project,'' she added.

To a supplementary, Ms. Banerjee said that during 2009-10, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) received 1,405 complaints regarding food quality in mobile and static units and action has been taken against these. Out of complaints, 568 units have been fined, 710 warned, 56 have undergone counselling, while 71 cases are pending.

When some members sought to know as to what the Ministry was doing about improving quality of drinking water served in trains, Ms. Banerjee also she said that the government was setting up several bottling plants under public-private partnership to provide clean and cheap drinking water to travelling passengers.

Referring to the problem of 17,000 unmanned crossings, she said, the railways planned to man 4,000 crossings every year in the next four years. She said incidents of Naxal attacks on Railway property nearly doubled in 2009 and the department lost over Rs. 500 crore due to disruptions by Maoists.

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