Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu has emphasised on the need for effective utilisation of IRCTC e-catering platform for marketing of handicrafts, ethnic foods, tourism destinations, housekeeping services being offered by various self help groups (SHGs) across the country. Addressing a Railway Board meeting earlier this week, Prabhu asserted that NABARD should become a nodal agency for channelising the association of various SHGs providing such services and that other departments and ministries should also come up with action plan for similar projects. Discussions were held on various efforts and concessions given by IRCTC so as to empanel more and more SHGs on its e-catering website. Such association can give rise to a quantum jump to e-commerce business and can translate into better earnings for weaker sections of the society, which include women in large numbers. Prabhu pointed out that efforts from both sides can result in a win-win situation where the IRCTC shall be benefitted by the way of more hits which will give a higher valuation of site.

He directed that interaction level between various stakeholders should be increased so as to arrive at the achievement level desired and sustainable development of SHGs and also directed IRCTC to train people for high end jobs in catering and hospitality industry. Dr. A K Manocha, Chairman and Managing Director of the IRCTC, brought out that IRCTC is already imparting training to approximately 1000 persons every year from weaker sections of society so as to get meaningful employment in catering industry through Hunar se Rozgar Tak Yojana for which funds are given by Ministry of Tourism.

At the end of November, a joint venture with NABARD was initiated by IRCTC for a national level tie up with SHGs. NABARD is a leading agency working towards the empowerment of women Self Help Groups across the country. A joint coordination committee workshop was conducted and the draft criteria for empanelment of SHGs in the E catering initiative were finalized to enable maximum participation by interested SHGs.

Recently, Sawantwadi Road Railway Station on the Konkan Railway network in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra was selected to launch the pilot project by Prabhu for the promotion of SHGs under e-Catering network and to offer local cuisine to train passengers. The federation of SHGs by the name “Maher Lok Sanchalit Sadhan Kendra” managed by MAVIM was entrusted to commence the project with the support of Lupin HWRF and NABARD.

At present various SHGs are empanelled with IRCTC in Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Mysore, Ernakulam, Saugor, Adra etc. and in the eastern region, IRCTC is in the process of empanelling SHGs in Kolkata. It has also been proposed that water vending machines be installed and operated through SHGs.

Apart from Prabhu, the others who attended the meeting included Dr. A K Manocha and G M Singh from IRCTC, Mohammad Jamshed, MT, Sanjiv Garg, AM T and C, Smita Rawat, ED T and C, and Shelly Srivastava Director T&C Railway Board. The officers from NSIC, NABARD, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Ministry for Rural Development, Ministry of Tribal welfare & TRIFED also attended the meeting.

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