New Delhi: The Railways Food Vending Association has said it is not ready to begin services on platforms due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and urged officials not to pressure it into opening stalls.
Stalls on platforms have been shut throughout the novel coronavirus-induced lockdown, which was imposed on March 25 to check the spread of the infection.
However, through a letter on May 21, the Railway Board directed all zonal railways to open permanent and vending stalls located inside railway stations with immediate effect.
"No one likes to keep their business closed for long and sit without work but wants to operate their units under viable conditions, Akhil Bharatiya Railway Khan-Pan Licensees Welfare Association president Ravinder Gupta said in a letter to Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav on May 28.
"There are many hurdles and unprecedented situations in reopening of the units (stalls) due to the ongoing lockdown/containment zones and Red Zones in most of the states of the country, it said.
The letter also said that most vendors had migrated to their hometowns due to the lockdown and raised the issue of safety for vendors alleging that no arrangements have been made for the protection of men and material on platforms.
"'Shramik Trains' are continuing to transport migrant labourers who are looting and vandalising and causing heavy damages to some stalls. Are those local authorities going to take responsibility in case of loss or injury, Gupta asked in the letter.
The association also requested the railways to allow reasonable time for reopening of the static platform stalls.
"It is therefore earnestly requested to kindly allow reasonable time for reopening of the static units, restrict officials from creating panic and building pressure, and collecting data in respect of reopening of the same which is causing fear in the mind of all concerned, the letter said.
It also said that there is no point in opening food stalls at the moment as very few trains were operational.
"Only 100 pairs of passenger trains are scheduled to be operated from June 1. In absence of proper restoration of all trains and normalized situation, there are hardly any possibilities of availing vending services by bonafide passengers, the letter said.
Food vending services on platforms are an important source of meals for passengers at this time, especially for those on Shramik Special' trains who are undertaking long journeys and running out of food and water.
These trains have around three stoppages. There are around one lakh static units or stall at 9,000 railway stations.