Hailakandi: The Hailakandi district administration has asked the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) and NF Railways to rope in women self-help groups (SHGs) for providing local cuisines in running trains through station-based e-catering service.
At a meeting held at the deputy commissioner’s conference hall here on Tuesday between officials of IRCTC and NF Railways, the district administration and women SHGs, Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli called upon the catering arm of railways to empanel the women SHGs of Hailakandi district to provide authentic regional food cooked in hygienic conditions at certain stations including Panchgram and Hailakandi.
Evincing keen interest IRCTC officials said passengers of all trains originating/stopping at these stations can avail of the facility of SHG cooked food through e-catering. Currently, 11 lakh meals are served per day in running trains across the country, out of which private caterers provide a majority of meals. The impaneled SHGs will be displayed on e-catering websites with their menu and prices. The passenger may choose meal or food items offered by SHGs and place the order. This will help in the sustainable development of SHGs, a senior official said.
“The proposed association with SHGs will empower women by giving their food products a brand name,” City Project Manager, National Urban Livelihoods Mission, Mustafa Ahmed Laskar said, adding that the initiative would help to develop local communities and ensure all-inclusive growth. Quite a good number of women SHGs have come forward to provide popular local cuisine and it is expected that more and more SHGs would join the scheme, he said.
Railways have announced a new catering policy with the aim of providing quality food at rail premises and reduce the number of complaints against the existing catering system. The new catering policy envisages separation of cooking from distribution of food on trains and encourages e-catering system.
Currently, IRCTC provides an e-catering facility in all the trains passing through the most important 45 stations of Indian Railways. It also provides food to 1516 trains without pantry cars. The food is directly delivered by the vendor on the berth/seat of the passenger. Besides this, the administration requested the Railway officials to engage women SHGs in the station cleaning operation, cleaning of pay and use toilets and ticket booking. The Railway officials said the women SHGs must participate in the tendering process but would be given preference over others. “Involvement of women SHGs in e-catering of IRCTC and other services of railways will provide scope for employment generation leading to women empowerment, “ said a railway official. There are altogether 168 active women SHGs in Hailakandi district.