According to the CAG audit report to be tabled in the Parliament on Friday, contaminated food items, recycled foodstuff, expired packaged and bottled items and unauthorised brands of water bottles were offered for sale at Indian Railway stations.
The report had damning comments on the cleanliness and hygiene levels at the units that provided catering for the stations and in trains.
During the course of inspection, which was done by the a joint team of the CAG team and the Railways at selected 74 stations and 80 trains, it was found that waste bins were not covered, not emptied regularly and not washed.
The statement said catering has been a "top priority for the railways" and the minister Suresh Prabhu was "specially cognisant of the issues".
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The report has also pointed out that the clutter has been created due to frequent changes in policy and the failure of the Indian Railways to take effective steps to bridge the gap to provide necessary infrastructure in terms of base kitchens, static catering units, and automatic vending machines etc. At the same time, passengers are not billed for their food, while eating quality also has many drawbacks.
The ministry official said the catering policy has been changed only thrice - in 2005, 2010 and 2017.
While raising the issue of limited number of players being awarded contracts, CAG also said that the Board may frame guidelines for assessing the workability of rates in catering contracts so that service quality is not compromised.
"On the initiative of the minister we identified that the problem was so entrenched that unless the policy was changed and contract frameworks completely overhauled, things would not change permanently". Checks and controls prescribed for check of quality were not used effectively.