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Indian Railways looks at toilets as a way of making money! - Moneylife

Indian Railways looks at toilets as a way of making money! - Moneylife

The Indian Railways thinks it can exploit every possible way to earn money. So, instead of providing clean and hygienic toilets to passengers, it is earning revenues from contractors who run these facilities on platforms
Normally, we all expect any public service provider, like the Indian Railways, to spend money to provide amenities and facilities to users or passengers. However, the Railways thinks otherwise. According to a reply received by Gaurang Damani under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Railways earned money from contractors as license fee for maintaining toilets on platforms in good condition.

“Actual expenses incurred for the work of maintaining of toilets on platforms are incurred by contractors/non-governmental organisation (NGOs) who have awarded the contract for operating and maintaining of toilets on platforms through tender process,” the reply from Central Railway (CR) states.

It further says, during 2010-11 and 2011-12 Central Railway earned Rs47.41 lakh and Rs65.80 lakh, respectively as license fee from contractors for maintaining existing toilets on platforms.

This explains why noted NGOs like Sulabh International never gets to manage toilets on railway platforms. Most of the times, one would find a family residing with every toilet. The family, appointed by the contractor is expected to maintain the toilet, but again, they are too interested only in collecting entrance fees for toilets leaving urinals stinking.

Cleanliness of the premises, inside coaches, availability of water in toilets is basic responsibility of the Railways. But it does not seem to happen. Almost all toilets on all Railway platforms stink and that too when instead of spending on maintenance of toilets, the Railways is earning money through contracts.

Last year, the CR formulated its public toilet facility that paved way for inviting proposals for maintaining these facilities. The policy mentions specific guidelines, including hiring of uniformed staff, cleanliness norms and toiletries to be used inside by the contractor.

The policy also proposed uniformed toilet attendants with proper badges posted round-the-clock. A board would display contractor’s name, phone numbers and rate-list, including large readable tariff cards for the public, at prominent site. The policy also stated that the sanitary fittings, drainage fittings or sumps shall be cleaned and kept free from choking.

But ask any rail commuter and s/he would give you 10 reasons for avoiding the toilet facility on platforms. One of the major reasons is the unbearable stink that originates due to non-cleanliness of the toilets. Contractors or attendants (if you could find one) often cite non-availability of water as reason for not cleaning toilets. But then they should have considered all the factors before taking over the contract from the Railways.

Based on a survey at 108 local train platforms through Observer Research Foundation in 2010, Damani through advocate MP Vashi had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against Western Railway and CR for improving toilets. The case is pending before the Bombay High Court.

According to the survey report, in 2010, there were just 355 toilet seats and 673 urinals for the 63 lakh strong commuter population on the entire Central, Harbour and Western routes of the suburban railway network. Women face a lot more problems than men; most of the ladies’ toilets at smaller stations are locked. The ORF survey said that 93% of the toilets that were found to be ‘closed’ or “out of use” were those meant for women