Kochi: It's often at main stations like Ernakulam North that the passengers in long haul trains look to quench their thirst or to have some refreshments. Not anymore.
The railways has suddenly stopped platform vending at Ernakulam North and even threatened to prosecute any staff of the food plaza or other licensed outlets if found selling water bottles and food products to passengers in trains."Now there is no way to get a bottle of water or a biscuit pack from the station as almost all trains have stoppage time of only one minute. There is no time to go to the food plaza, have food and then came back. Once the train leaves from Kottayam, the passengers, including elderly persons and children, can get food materials only from Thrissur, over four hours of journey," said 36-year old Vrinda Vijayan who was travelling from Kottayam to Thrissur in Island Express.
"We used to deploy staff to sell food materials as there is hardly any catering stalls in platform one. The other day, the railways directed us to stop the practice which we were doing since 2006. The Railway Protection Force too warned us against sending any staff with food articles when the trains halt," said a vendor on condition of anonymity.
Interestingly, the railways had given nod for platform vending back in June 2006 following a High Court order after a commuter moved a petition citing the lack of catering stalls at the platforms.
"The part time vendors from outside are exploiting the situation by selling food articles illegally. Now if there is a food poison complaint, no one could be made accountable," another vendor said.According to sources, what prompted the divisional railway authorities to stop platform vending in the station from August 9 onwards is that they have hiked license fee rates for such sales.
"The catering outlets here were indulging in platform vending at the old rates. We want to give separate rights for platform vending which will give us more revenue," said a railway official.
However, the passengers and the catering licensees point out that the officials could have simply asked them to pay the increased fees instead of stopping the practice....