The Indian Government has changed and so the priorities. Moving aside the ‘passenger tickets price’ issue, Cleanliness and safety has taken the centre stage of Indian Railways agenda.
Indian Railways is now ready to get divorced from age old filthiness, infamous food and laundry services and marry cleanliness & safety. The dirty sight of rail tracks at the stations has been an aversive sight for passengers, but now an advanced track cleaning machine has been sent to Varanasi and others stations that would function like a vacuum cleaner and has powerful motors to effectively clean asix meter stretch of the track at one go.
Railways Minister Sadanand Gowda while presenting government’s 100 days report card announced to set up a separate housekeeping wing to have focussed attention and exclusive responsibility of maintaining cleanliness and sanitation at stations.
Massive Cleanliness Drive
Launched this June, all DRMs visited inspected and supervised the cleanliness activity during the drive and initiated remedial measures to make a visible impact on cleanliness in their respective areas. A total of 446 trains, including 30 additional mail and express trains, have been covered under On-Board Housekeeping Service (OBHS) to ensure cleanliness in the trains on move. With 40% budget increment on cleanliness, Indian railways is set to see more bio-toilet installation inside the couches. So far, 475 coaches have been fitted with bio-toilets.
In an exclusive press conference, Sadanand Gowda said, “The cleanliness activities will now be monitored with the aid of CCTVs. More bio-toilets is the only way to make the tracks in the Railway station area clean and neat. A detailed plan is being worked out to fit all trains running in one sector with bio-toilets so that all the stations in that sector will achieve 100% cleanliness. On board housekeeping services, already employed for trains, have been extended to more trains bringing the number up to 446 trains. OBHS has received good feedback from passengers, we will be covering all new mail, express and premium trains with this facility so that passengers are satisfied with cleanliness of the trains.”
Taking customer complaints over unhygienic food being served in the trains into account, the government is planning to go ‘the passengers’ way’. “The strategy being planned is to provide the passengers a choice. Passengers can choose: either pre-cooked ready to eat food items or order for food from a local food chain in the town where the train is passing by or the food supplied by the caterer on the train. The passengers can also book the meal when they book the ticket,” he said.
Further, to improve the quality, third party audit system will be in place shortly. Apart from third party audit, an automated system of passenger feedback on food quality has been introduced. This feedback system will be extended to cover at least 10% of the passengers initially so that the quality can be judged.
To improve upon the quality of linen, four mechanised laundries have been set up at Varanasi, Bikaner, New Jalpaiguri and Lucknow. More to come. With a capacity of over two lakhs litres daily, a new Rail Neer plant at Ambernath (Mumbai) of IRCTC has been opened for commercial production to cater to the western need. Speaking on the safety measures, Gowda said, “Safety is one of the crucial aspects and we have attached utmost importance. During this period176 unmanned level crossings were eliminated against the target of 125 and 52 manned level crossings were closed against the target of 35. Works for the construction of 249 RUBs and 30 ROBs have been taken up against the target of 130 and 25. Also, a system of gate counsellors is being introduced for the remaining unmanned level crossings so that the chances of accidents are reduced to large extent till either RUB or ROB is constructed.”