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Parliament canteen may soon go fully veg

IRCTC, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, may soon be told to pack up as caterers to the Parliament canteen. The race for its replacement seems to be narrowing down to private brands, Bikarnerwala and Haldiram, choices that may mean the menu available for the MPs will only be vegetarian.

, TNN|
Updated: Jan 14, 2020, 10.57 AM IST
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It is expected that the giving up of subsidies alone will result in annual savings of approximately Rs 17 crore, and the new caterers will be asked to sell food on a ‘no profit-no loss’ basis.
(This story originally appeared in on Jan 14, 2020)
NEW DELHI: IRCTC, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, may soon be told to pack up as caterers to the Parliament canteen. The race for its replacement seems to be narrowing down to private brands, Bikarnerwala and Haldiram — choices that may mean the menu available for the MPs will only be vegetarian.

IRCTC has, in recent months, faced growing concerns over the quality of its fare served in Parliament and subsidies offered, triggering a demand for fresh caterers for the complex.

TOI has learnt Bikanerwala and Haldiram, in addition to the government-run ITDC, are among the key contenders considered to replace IRCTC. The final decision is likely to be a toss-up between Bikanerwala and Haldiram, sources say. In the absence of a parliamentary food panel, LS Speaker Om Birla is likely to decide on the matter.

The Parliament menu has been much discussed, not the least for low rates which have now been revised, with certain items like biryani, chicken cutlets and fish and chips seen as signature dishes. On the simpler side, khichdi and pongal and sliced fruits and juices have been the healthier and tasteful options.

But if Haldiram or Bikanerwala assume charge, it will also mean the Parliament fare will turn vegetarian since both companies do not serve non-vegetarian food. Sources said no formal decision has been taken yet, but change appears imminent in light of Birla’s emphasis on several occasions that quality of food requires improvement and subsidies need to go, perhaps as early as the upcoming Budget session.

The changes will also have a trickle down effect on prices of food in Parliament canteens which are accessed by all MPs, Parliament staffers, security personnel, media as well as all visitors.

At present, IRCTC receives sizeable subsidies from Parliament that covers costs of cutlery and plates, apart from the space in which the caterers operate their kitchens. Roping in a private service provider, it is learnt, will move the burden of cooking and serving food from the Parliament’s shoulders to that of the service providers in its entirety.

It is expected that the giving up of subsidies alone will result in annual savings of approximately Rs 17 crore, and the new caterers will be asked to sell food on a ‘no profit-no loss’ basis.

During the winter session of Parliament in 2019, lawmakers from all parties had agreed during a Business Advisory Committee where Birla moved a proposal asking them to give up the subsidy in Parliament canteens. The rates of food served in Parliament canteen were last revised in January 2016.
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