For a rail commuter, health is more important and therefore, an increasingly large number of railway passengers are playing it safe by bringing their own food and light bedding. So, why not make food and bedroll charges optional on Garib Rath trains?
If you have ever booked a ticket on a “Garib Rath” class train on the Indian Railways, then you would have observed that the bedroll charges of Rs25 are an optional extra, to be paid for in advance if you want one. This guarantees you a set on these super-fast fully-air-conditioned fully AC-3Tier trains run on high-speed Rajdhani equivalent schedules. Likewise, in case they have ample bedrolls left unused, then you can pay onboard.
Hot fresh cooked food is also supplied onboard, in casseroles picked up at origin and en-route stations, and is mostly ‘dry’ non-gravy. On some routes there is provision for hot water so that tea or coffee, sold separately with paper cups, can also be consumed. By and large, Garib Rath trains operate like low-cost no-frill airlines—and do away with the additional cost as well as liability of lugging a full pantry car along. This saving is then worked back into the ticket price—which makes the AC-3T option on a Garib Rath about the best way to travel by train in India.
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It also reduces the generation of waste and packaging material, thrown as garbage along the way, because the “dry hot cooked meal” is provided in simple cardboard boxes—without any of the usual plastic or foil.
On the other hand, bedrolls are now part of the ticket price on all air-conditioned classes, and hot cooked food of the wet and gravy sort served at your berth or seat is part of the ticket price on Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi class trains. This used to be a reasonable concept till a few years ago, but there are issues now, which make it essential that the Indian Railways take a fresh look at this whole concept.
Starting with the bedrolls—as is perceived, it is apparent that the blankets don’t go for a dry-cleaning or suitable freshen up for 10-15 journeys. Pillows, likewise. Bed sheets appear to be re-used, especially in AC-3T while hand-towels appear to be fresh. There are simple economic reasons for this. However, as a rail user, that is of no consequence to me, since my health is more important. You can actually now buy a brand new half-way decent blanket with two bed-sheets for a couple of hundred rupees outside most railway stations, or you can bring your own from home, and use your own towel as a pillow. Anything would be, in most cases, better than what is supplied on our trains now.
Food—what used to be often a memorable meal on trains, especially the Rajdhanis, is now more like a “eat and be done with it” experience, especially in AC-2T or 3T. Sure, the hot soup is welcome, but after that—the breadsticks have started tasting of maida gone bad, yellow salted butter is not good for us, the “chocolate éclairs” are made of hydrogenated oils, the curries are watery at best and the “ice-cream” is what is known as “frozen dessert” or coloured flavoured vanaspati. About the rotis and rice, the less said the better.
For that, and for the pleasure of serving a fresh cooked meal to the VIPs in AC-First, some of these Rajdhani Express trains now lug two full pantry cars on their journeys. Apart from the huge cost incurred, there is also the risk to passengers on trains, of accidents and fires caused because of this.
It is about time food and bedrolls were made optional extras on these trains, with a higher charge levied to set off better quality, for those who want to eat onboard. There is an increasingly larger and growing number of railway passengers who are playing it safe, by bringing their own food and light bedding, who would also benefit.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)
The easing of January inflation would provide the much-needed comfort to Reserve Bank of India, which had projected March-end inflation at 6.8%
The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) based inflation fell to 6.62% in January, declining for the fourth month in a row, despite rise in prices of food items like vegetables, onions and rice. The headline inflation had stood at 7.18% in December and 7.24% in November. It was at 7.23 % in January 2012.
Further, inflation in manufactured items category too witnessed a decline and stood at 4.81% in January, according to official data.
Inflation in food articles, which have a 14.3% share in the WPI basket, however witnessed an increase as onion prices shot up during the month.
Inflation in the food articles category was at 11.88% from 11.16% in December.
Onions became expensive by 111.52% during January from 69.24% in December 2012.
While rice became costlier by 17.31% in January, from 17.10% in December, vegetables became dearer by 28.45% from 23.25% in last month.
Inflation in wheat and cereals stood at 21.39% and 18.09% respectively in January.
Potatoes were expensive by 79.07%, while inflation in pulses was up 16.89%.
While, inflation in eggs, meat and fish stood at 10.81%, that of milk rose up 4.47% and fruits by 8.42%.
For the fuel and power category, it moderated to 7.06% in January, compared to 9.38% in the previous month.
The easing of January inflation would provide the much-needed comfort to Reserve Bank of India, which had projected March-end inflation at 6.8%.
The central bank had last month lowered interest rates by 0.25% saying that with inflation showing signs of remaining range bound, it was now critical to arrest the loss of growth momentum.
Wipro was down 3.13% to Rs396.65 on the NSE and Siemens was trading 3.32% lower at Rs584.50 in noon trade following the announcement
IT major Wipro and diversified group Siemens will be excluded from the National Stock Exchange's benchmark index Nifty from 1st April.
India Index Services & Products (IISPL), an NSE-Crisil joint venture that maintains the Nifty index, on Wednesday said Wipro and Siemens would be excluded from the 50-share benchmark index with effect from 1 April 2013.
They will be replaced by private sector lender IndusInd Bank and state-run NMDC in the Nifty index, the statement from IISPL said.
Many other changes have also been made in various other indices of NSE such as CNX Nifty Junior Index, CNX 100 Index, CNX 200 Index CNX 500 Index, CNX Midcap Index and CNX Smallcap Index by its Index Maintenance Sub-Committee during a periodic review, it said.
Besides, sectoral indices for auto, commodities, IT, consumption, metal, MNC, PSE, realty and service would also see some changes.
The stocks being excluded from Nifty Junior index are Biocon, GMR Infrastructure, IndusInd Bank and Torrent Power, while Bajaj Finserv, Siemens, Tata Global Beverages and United Breweries would be included in the index.
In the CNX 100 index, Biocon, GMR Infrastructure, Torrent Power and Wipro would be replaced by Bajaj Finserv, NMDC, Tata Global Beverages and United Breweries.
Those excluded from the CNX 200 Index include CMC, Container Corporation of India, Coromandel International, Dish TV India, Engineers India, Great Eastern Shipping Company, Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals, Ruchi Soya Industries, Shipping Corporation of India, Thermax and Wipro.
The stocks that being added to the CNX 200 index include Amara Raja Batteries, City Union Bank, Emami, ING Vysya Bank, L&T Finance Holdings, NMDC, Pidilite Industries and Shriram City Union Finance, Torrent Power, TV18 Broadcast and Wockhardt.
Wipro was down 3.13% to Rs396.65 on the NSE and Siemens was trading 3.32% lower at Rs584.50 in noon trade.