Saturday, April 23, 2016

What Happened on board Amritsar Howrah Mail (13006) and How I Uncovered the Pantry Car Scam

On April 15, 2016 I was returning to Howrah from Amritsar after a great trip to Himachal Pradesh. On board 13006 Amritsar Howrah Mail, it was time for morning tea. I do not prefer tea when I am travelling for reasons best known to me. However my family would not miss out on it.

The pantry car guys with "Meals on Wheels" labelled on their shirt were marketing their tea and breakfast. My dad called out to one of them and asked for 4 cups of tea. The man handed over 4 cups which contained the watery milk and each contained a tea bag. So these were the tea bag dipped tea.

"How much?", my dad asked.
"40 rupees", pat came the reply.
My dad handed him over the money. The pantry car staff was about to walk away to his next customer.
"Biscuits?", I asked. Because I suddenly remembered that tea with biscuits cost us 10/- when we boarded the train from Howrah to Kalka (Howrah-Kalka Mail).
"No biscuits", the guy replied.
"Then it should cost 7/-. With biscuit it is 10/-", I enquired.
He had a sense of nervousness on his face and he blabbered, "We are selling stuff at the price we are told. If you have any questions, ask our manager." and he hurried away.

You can download the price list from:

I told my dad that I would speak to the Pantry Car Manager and walked towards the pantry car. We were in B1 and pantry car was just the coach before. I approached the food packing desk and asked - "I want to speak to the pantry car manager" as my eye searched for him among the many present there.
One of them replied, "He is not here, he has gone for an inspection".
"I will wait", I replied and stood there as the rest continued their work.

A couple of minutes there, my dad came searching for me. I told him, "I am waiting for the manager".

Soon a person there told me point to a man who was sitting there right from the moment I had come, "He is the manager, speak to him".

"What is the price of the tea?", I asked the manager.
"10 rupees sir", he replied.
"Can you please show me the rate chart, I want to check the price of tea", I replied.
"What happened sir?", he asked me sensing trouble.
"We are being charged 10/- for a cup of tea when the actual price is 7/-. And if you are taking 10/- you should be providing biscuits", I charged.
"Sir, we had given them 10/- for tea and biscuit but we did not get the biscuit so we are charging 10/- for a cup of tea", he replied.
"Is that the rule, can you show me the rule book?", I asked him.
"Sir, how many cups you had taken, tell me, I will return the rest", he pleaded almost.
"What about the entire coach? All of them were charged 10/-. What about the entire train? All of them were charged 10/-", I asked him.
"Sir what to do", he had no answer.
"Okay, let me see if I can complain", I told him.
He had no answer. So both of us came back.

Returning to my seat, I remembered recent news reports about Railways Ministry being very proactive with complaints that were sent through Twitter. I wanted to tweet instantly. See, when the man on the top is proactive, the citizens get enough encouragement to stand up and voice out his opinion.

I tweeted - " travelng on 13006 Amritsar hwh mail.We are being charged 10/- instead of 7/- for a cup of tea."

After about an hour, Ministry of Railway Official Twitter handle replied to me, " Matter forwarded to the concerned official "

I was happy. A citizen's complaint was taken seriously and was forwarded to the concerned department for necessary action, in this case the Indian Railways Catering.

I kept waiting to see what happens. The pantry car staff walked passed selling the tea at the same rate as before, 10/-

An hour later, we asked for tea again and this time handed him 7/- for a cup of tea. The pantry car guy, counted it and asked for 3 rupees more. I told him, "tea cost 7/- and your manager agreed to it. Ask him".

He was visibly angry. He muttered, "no more tea in this coach" and went away towards the pantry car without proceeding further into the coach.

I kept waiting for a reply from @IRCatering handle but no reply came till today.

Time for lunch - I ordered for a standard veg casserole.

This is what a standard veg casserole contains according to Indian Railways.

This is what I got. They had asked me if I would prefer rice instead of roti, and I had agreed for rice.

According to Indian Railways, the pantry car should be charging 50/- for a standard veg thali. See the clip from the chart below:

This is how much I was charged.

I waited and waited for the Catering Department to initiate action or at least reply back to my tweet. But till today that has not happened.

I have come back and lodged an online complaint with the Ministry of Railways. I have also filed an RTI and I am waiting for the response.