fter 26 passengers travelling on the country’s first semi high-speed train Tejas Express fell ill on Sunday following consuming food, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has stated in its preliminary report that it was not bad eggs or other food items served to passengers, but the Hilsa fish being eaten by a group of passengers, that caused the problem.
Blaming a group of passengers, IRCTC in the report has asserted that there was nothing wrong with the breakfast served to passengers. It has found that smell from stale fish had caused some children to vomit, triggering a similar response from other passengers. Some were taken ill after they consumed the fish.
Following the incident, the Area Officer of IRCTC at Madgaon and the onboard manager were placed under suspension on Sunday pending a fact-finding report and a food test report. A three-member committee from Central Railway and IRCTC, too, has been formed which interacted with passengers, AC mechanic, and train ticket examiners.
Sources said that as per the report, the tour manager of a group of passengers from Kolkata categorically said that there was no problem with the quality of food served to them on the train. “He also reported that for the last 16 days, they have been travelling to various places in Maharashtra and Goa with their own cooks and food material. They were carrying fish (Hilsa) from Kolkata,” said an official. According to the report, the tour manager even confirmed that he ate everything served by the waiters twice, and found no problems with it. Six passengers of the tour manager’s group were among the 26 passengers hospitalised at Chiplun, who have since been discharged. There were two tourist groups travelling on the train, one from Himachal Pradesh and another from Kolkata.
Passengers of Karmali-Mumbai Tejas Express, which departed at 9.15 am on Sunday from Karmali, were served breakfast at 9.30 am. Around 12.30 pm, soup was served. Around 1 pm, at least three to four passengers from coach C5 started complaining that they were feeling giddy.
The first case of uneasiness was reported by the group from Himachal Pradesh, in which two children vomited in the coach owing to the smell of fish that was being consumed, the report states. The smell of the vomit triggered uneasiness among other co-passengers, and then another two children vomited in the same coach. This further vitiated the air in the AC coach and then two more children vomited, and in turn, triggered uneasiness among their parents, it adds.
The feedback about the quality of food from other passengers was taken and almost all passengers gave satisfactory remarks. The food samples were collected and it was observed that they were all within their date of expiry.
The committee has therefore concluded that the food quality served on Tejas Express was of satisfactory quality. The problem of uneasiness was reported by members of the tourist group, which appears to be the main cause of the incident, it has concluded.
The Indian Railways have made catering optional in trains like Rajdhani, Duranto, and Shatabdi. People will be given an extra form while booking train tickets, on which they can opt for vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals or choose not to be served meals.
The Railway Board has issued a circular that states that catering services will be made optional in top trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, and Duranto in which the public sector undertaking of IRCTC has been providing food to passengers. In the ticket booking form, two more columns have been added that mentions ‘Meal Request’.