The Indian Railways has always endeavoured to provide a smooth and comfortable travel experience to its passengers. In a move to increase the safety of train operations and reduce the chances of the signal failing, the Indian Railways had tried to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) in November 2017. You can read more about that here.
On a related note, the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) has also been taking steps to improve its catering services, including bringing down the prices of various food items, which you can learn about here.
However, the complaints about the quality of the food have not ceased, and in a bid to salvage its reputation, which has taken a serious hit, the Railways is looking to implement AI-based technology and CCTV cameras to catch irregularities.
According to the Financial Express, Ashwani Lohani, the Chairman of the Railway Board, has promised that “high quality and tasty food” will be served, beginning July, in premium trains like the Rajdhani, the Shatabdi and the Duronto on a trial basis and in all other trains thereafter.
He compared the proposed meal, comprising of 2 or 3 items, to the meals served in airlines.
As a part of this latest initiative, 68 new base kitchens will come up across India, and be ready by December 2019. All the kitchens will have CCTV monitoring, and an AI module will be installed in them.
The AI system, known as Obots, is on-point and can track any pest in any of the base kitchens. A report of a foreign object found (if any), will immediately reach various stakeholders, including the IRCTC Managing Director.
The system will also detect anomalies in the catering operation, including minute details like instances of team members not wearing their uniforms. The system will then send a report to the contractor, who will be given a 15-minute timeline to address the same, failing which a report will be sent to the IRCTC MD, according to a senior Railway official in The Pioneer.
As for the kitchens, the Chairman mentioned they would have state-of-the-art kitchenware, and a separate provision for vegetarian and non-vegetarian cooking spaces will be made. The pantries will be well-maintained, and new coaches, which have separate washing and storage facilities, will be put to use. Additionally, managers and supervisors will carry out random checks to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Howrah, Kanpur, Bilaspur, and Raipur, are some of the cities where the kitchens will be set up, and according to IRCTC Chairman and Managing Director MP Mall, the process will cost over Rs 1 crore per kitchen. The IRCTC wants to stabilise the catering system, and prevent it from being shuffled around.
Last year, in its report presented in the parliament, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had severely criticised the Indian Railways and had even gone on record to say that the national transporter was serving food which was unfit for human consumption. The report stated that there were serious issues in the hygiene standards of the food being served, and also mentioned that unpurified water was being used to prepare beverages.
The Railways has started implementing steps to improve service quality. This latest foray of implementing AI in catering might help the national transporter plug the hygiene loopholes mentioned above.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)
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