The Central Railway has suspended three inspectors of Commercial department posted in Mumbai for allegedly providing ‘misleading’ information on an RTI query, a senior official said.
It initially created an impression of a ‘catering scam’ in the department, however it wasn’t. A right to information response put a price tag of Rs 972 on every 100 gram packet of curd bought by the Central Railway for its canteens last year. Suspended over the goof-up, the officers could re-join their duties if found innocent after an investigation.
In a reply to the RTI query by information activist Ajay Bose filed last July, the officers had put a 1200-page detailed response. Bose wanted to know the money paid for food items that are brought by passengers on trains and the Jan Ahaar canteens.
Initially, the railways didn’t give reply bur last month they replied after Bose filed a complaint with the transparency watchdog in Delhi, the Central Information Commission.
The inspectors were suspended after the reports appeared in certain sections of the media on Tuesday, stating that the commercial department was involved in a "catering scam" as it had purchased each cup of 100-gram curd for staggering Rs 972.
"The question of any scam does not arise as the edibles were not purchased at the prices being reported in the media. There is a miscommunication on part of the earring Information Officers who did not take proper precaution while furnishing the information," Central
Railway Chief Commercial Manager Shailendra Kumar told reporters at a press conference. However, he didn't disclose the names of the suspended inspectors.
Earlier in the day, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu ordered an inquiry on the basis of the media reports and asked the Railway Board chairman to take strict action.
Clarifying the goof-up, Kumar said, "It was a carton containing 108 cups of curd, each weighing 100 grams, which was purchased for Rs 972.
However, our commercial inspectors inadvertently mentioned the price of each cup at Rs 972 while furnishing the reply (to an RTI query)," the officer said.
Similarly, one carton (consisting 15 bottles of one litre each) of refined oil was purchased for Rs 870, he said.
"In their reply, the concerned information officers (the three inspectors) inadvertently mentioned that each bottle was purchased for Rs 870, which was quite impossible for the committee, which takes decision on purchasing various materials, to sanction such a price (as stated in the reply)," Kumar said.
He said the cups and oil bottles were purchased between January and June 2016, and the bills can still be produced.
Kumar said his department would issue a set of guidelines to the staff on how to deal with such RTI queries in future and to take requisite precaution.
He also dismissed the need for further probe, saying, "prima facie there is no wrong-doing and the question to investigate further does not arise as everything is crystal clear".
(With inputs from PTI)