CHENNAI: Despite stiff opposition from a section of rail passengers, the Railways will proceed with its decision to observe ‘Vegetarian Day’ on October 2, banning the sale of non-vegetarian food in trains and at station premises to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
According to official sources, non-vegetarian food including egg briyani, chicken briyani and egg noodles will not be served in trains including premier trains catered by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), food stalls at station premises and railways offices on October 2, said official sources.
The Vegetarian Day is observed for three years from 2018 to 2020, said the order issued by the Railway Board. The Railways came under sharp criticism for imposing the ‘vegetarian food’ on the rail passengers in April this year after it issued orders to the IRCTC and other zonal railways banning the sale of non-vegetarian food in trains on October 2. Within weeks, in May the Board reviewed its decision and kept the earlier order in abeyance until further instructions.
“A few days ago, we have received an instruction that passengers should be served only the ‘special vegetarian food’ on October 2. The special menu will have additional food items such as stuffed parathas, kulchas and varieties of desserts,” said a senior official from the IRCTC.
The rail passengers travelling in premier trains such as Dorunto, Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express are charged catering fare of `300 to `800 a person. Passengers travelling in regular Express and Superfast trains are catered through the vendors on board. Besides, IRCTC-authorised food stalls also function at stations.
“Even though passengers choose their food while booking tickets for premier trains, the onboard railway caterer will ask the passengers to confirm their preferred food. On October 2, passengers will only have a special vegetarian food,” explained the official.
Expectedly, the decision has upset the rail passengers association, which termed the move as unconstitutional. Naina Masilamani, Member, Divisional Rail Users Consultative Committee (DRUCC), Chennai, said that the Railways has no right to decide on the food choice of the passengers on a particular day, whatsoever be the reason. “It’s a clear violation of personal liberty guaranteed under the Constitution. Had the Railway made this announcement earlier, we would have approached the court against the decision. They had withdrawn their earlier decision a few months ago, and suddenly imposed the vegetarian food on passengers which deserves strong condemnation,” he added.