Recently, I had an occasion to travel on a couple of very long journeys (Bangalore to Guwahati and back, and Bangalore to Ahmedabad and back). The Indian Railways had just raised the price of all food and beverages sold on the trains. I’ll take one example, where I found that vendors are resorting to unethical practices, and cheating passengers of their money.
We were told that tea and coffee were now to cost Rs.10, and though we grumbled, there is really no alternative to the vendors on the train, and we paid up. We were surprised, the next day, to find that the prices of tea and coffee seemed to fluctuate like the value of shares in the stock market! We paid, at various times, Rs. 7, Rs. 8, and Rs. 10 for a cup of tea or coffee (or that abomination, the mix of milk and hot water into which either tea bags or instant coffee is put.)
The old practice of never filling up the paper cups properly continued. If asked pointedly to fill up a cup, one vendor might do so, another more reluctantly; a third would tell me that he didn’t fill it up so that it would not spill in the running train!
I became curious about the sliding price scale, and learnt from this pdf (click here) available on the internet, that the official price of a cup of tea or coffee is now Rs.7. This means that throughout the country, on hundreds of trains, vendors have been systematically cheating passengers of at least Rs.3 on every single cup of beverage.
On the last three journeys, the price rarely varied from Rs.10, and there was one vendor who gave me a three-quarter-filled cup, and when I asked him to fill it up, he told me that this amount would cost Rs.8, and if I wanted the cup filled properly, it would cost me Rs.10!
I am not totally sure that the Railway officials are completely ignorant of what is going on. Is there any way that this insidious cheating can be stopped? To begin with, the food and beverages available on trains are of an appalling quality. On top of that, to be cheated in this way is galling.
Railway officials, are you listening? Do we, as passengers, get any relief from this unethical practice?