At a time when escalating charges at private food outlets in the Railways are taking toll on the common man, the Thiruvananthapuram Division is mulling to restart Jan Aahar stalls at prime stations in the state.
The stalls, famous for serving food at subsidised rates, were introduced by the Indian Railways in 2009.
Taking cue from the initial success of the scheme across the country, two such stalls were opened in Ernakulam and Kanyakumari stations in 2010.
However, due to heavy losses, the Jan Aahar stall at Ernakulam Junction station, operated by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), was forced to close shop.
Even though the Commercial Wing of the Railways tried to take it up at a later stage, it did not prove to be a success.
“When it was introduced in Ernakulam, a poori meal consisting of three pooris, pickle, onions and potato sabzi, was available for `10. Nearly, 2,000 persons ate daily from the stall,” said Ernakulam Railway Area Manager P L Ashok Kumar.
Rice meals like the rice-dal-achaar combo were also available.
Thiruvananthapuram Divisional Railway Manager Rajesh Agarwal said he has asked the Commercial Wing to follow up on the feasibility of the Jan Aahar scheme in the division.
“Jan Aahar stalls are operating at losses everywhere. The Railways cannot directly run the stalls. If at all the project becomes a reality, we will have to outsource it,” he said.
Commercial Wing officials said the cost of maintaining cooks for the stalls and buying essential food products such as onion, vegetables, pooris, rice has escalated to such a level that it would be impossible for the Railways here to even consider it, as it would bring heavy losses.
If private parties are given Jan Aahar stalls, they can run it more profitably even if the rates are subsidised. The same licensees will be holding other shops at the station.
If the project is realised, Jan Aahar stalls are likely to come up at Chenganoor, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam railway stations.
Janta Khana for Pilgrims
The Railways will provide ‘Janta Khana’ at Chengannur and Kottayam stations to pilgrims during Sabarimala season. The Janta Khana scheme, which will be run by private licensees, will also provide food at subsidised rates. The Janta Khana consists of seven pooris (175 gm), potato curry (150 gm) and pickle. Janta Khana was introduced last year during the pilgrimage season and was a great hit.