COMPLAIN. LET US KNOW. HELP US IMPROVE
Dr ARUN KUMAR MANOCHA | CMD, IRCTC
Chairman & Managing Director of Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) talks to Governance Today on various issues of Indian Railways and how they are working on making it customer-friendly. _Dr Arun Kumar Manocha is all positive about the ventures IRCTC is taking up. Here are his views on some of the issues.
We only have three per cent of the total catering into the railways and that is also confined to few like Rajdhani and Durontos. Rest 97 per cent is with contractors hired by the Indian Railways. There are three reasons for the quality complaints when it comes to contractors. Firstly, their first motive is profit, quality comes later. Secondly, most of them will give good food initially to get good feedback and contract and then the deterioration in the quality starts. Thirdly, which is kind of genuine, is that they do not get adequate compensation for the products and services as per the price rise so they begin to compromise on the quality.
Another issue is that there is mostly one pantry in the whole train unlike Shatabdi and Rajdhani that have mini pantries. Therefore, there are issues regarding the food not being hot. Moreover, every person has their own choices.
There have been complaints about pantry vendors selling food items, water bottles and other items at prices higher than the MRP. Why is this not being taken up?
The problem is that people do not complain. I encourage everyone to please report such incidents and post it on twitter. Every vendor on the trains cannot be monitored individually, unless we get complaints. So far, there has been just one single complaint and that is being taken up sternly. Any kind of issue, I encourage people to complain. Let us know so that we can look into it.
Water vending machines that have been put by IRCTC are there only at limited stations. Any plans to cover the rest?
Water vending machines provide one liter of water at Rs 5 and half-a-liter at Rs 3. This was an initiative with welfare motive but there are limitations. We have tender only for 2,500 machines. People who set up these machines face problem with respect to rates, at times they are not getting permission as the officer in charge claims that he is new and needs to study the project before giving permission. At times the railways were asking for three months’ advance payment and at some places there were some technical glitches that led to the delay.
So far, 200 machines have already been set up since December. While 150 are ready to be set up. We have received very good response from the machines that have already been set up. One machine made a record of Rs 12,000 sale in a day.
These projects would hopefully help the situation. We have tied up with self help groups to set up these machines at smaller stations. The progress is slow but will definitely be a success.
What new can we expect in the near future?
We have sent a proposal to the government for a fully-mechanized pre-prepared thali vending machine. A pilot of this project called Food Box was taken up in Chennai for a month. The response was good and we are waiting for the approval to set up the hygienic thali machines.
Another venture is Namma toilets. Fifteen toilets at seven to eight stations will be set up. These are recast stainless steel toilets. The design has inbuilt wash basin, water supply and are easy to maintain. The whole structure has facilities for both men and women. Its compact design also takes care of the space crunch issue.
Recently we have put Lassi and water vending machines at the New Delhi railway station and have received very good response. This is an initiative to provide drinking water at reasonable price.
We have a lot to look up to. We are working towards a better and customer centric railways.
What role is IT playing in the development of railways?
The IT industry definitely has a role to play. Digitization has made thing more cordial and easy to monitor. We have also started e-wallet, something like Paytm, and to incentivize the initiative the registration fee that was Rs 250 has been reduced to Rs 50. So, with one time registration it is a very secure gateway to payments while booking tickets or packages. This is a foolproof process that has been linked to the PAN card. Efforts are on to link it to Aadhar as well as voter ID card. We are in talks with the election commission for this.
What are the Tie-ups for holisticity?
IRCTC has signed an MoU with the Uttrakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB) for promotion of tourism in the hilly state, especially the launch of pilgrim packages for the next year’s Ardh Kumbh Mela at Haridwar (2016) and projecting Uttarkhand as a Yoga destination.
IRCTC has joined hands with Amazon. in, India’s largest online store, to give travelers and customers the joy of an easy and convenient shopping experience. In addition to booking travel tickets and hotel accommodations, customers will be able to shop seamlessly from the IRCTC portal and enjoy shopping for over 19 million products across various categories that has an added feature of doorstep delivery.
The RuPay Card
IRCTC, Union Bank and National Payment Corporation of India have jointly launched a pre-paid card. The unique feature is that it can be issued in both virtual as well as Physical forms. It is a pre-paid one loaded with an amount as desired by customer and is redeemable for Rail Ticket, to buy goods and services on any RuPay POS terminals.
Restro-bar on the cards
Seeking to foray into fine dining restaurant business at swanky hotels across the country, IRCTC is all set to open a specialty restaurant in the ITDC-run Hotel Janpath in the national capital.
What are the CSR Initiatives taken up by IRCTC?
These are just some of the works rather initiatives that IRCTC has taken up to make the services better. There are several social responsibilities towards the citizens that are also being taken up. Some of them include provisioning of golf carts and wheel chairs for the elderly and the sick passengers, RO purified water vending machines at hospitals and public places, pet water bottle crushing machines so that every gulp of water is pure and no reuse of bottle is possible.
Expectations have risen and future seems bright. Indian railways is working hard to wash off the ‘poor services’ tag that has been there for long. A long way to go but at least the beginning has surfaced.