The Indian railways has been gradually seeing an overhaul since 2014 with higher investments, greater safety, passenger amenities and the use of cutting edge technology for modernization. We have taken a detailed look and captured some of these trends in our previous article, Modernizing Indian Railways: Big Picture, Budget and Action Plan. A recent development where the Prime Minister has flagged off the first 12000 HP Freight Electric Locomotive also adds to this trend.
While there is a lot of positive news in all these aspects, one critical area which directly impacts passenger experience is less spoken about. This aspect is cleanliness and hygiene in the Indian Railways. Recent data and information emerging from the Ministry suggest that there has been a marked progress in cleanliness, which is in line with the vision and agenda of the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission.
Massive increase in the installation of Bio-Toilets
Till March 2018, a total of 1,25,000 Bio- toilets had been installed in railway coaches. The significance of this number and the scale of change can be correctly assessed, if one considers the fact that in the year 2013-14, number of bio-toilets installed in train coaches stood at mere 8024. 56,087 bio-toilets were installed in the year 2017-18 which was the highest ever. The target for the year was 40,000 bio-toilets but the final installations was 40 percent higher. It was also 64 percent higher than the 34,134 toilets installed in the year 2016-17. With this, the initiative covers about 60 percent of the coaching fleet of Indian Railways. This astounding growth is reflected in the charts presented below by the Ministry of Railways.
All the trains plying on the 27 identified Green Corridors have bio-toilets installed. This initiative, apart from aligning with ‘Swachh Bharat’ is also contributing to the ‘Make in India’ initiative. The indigenous technology of bio-toilets is jointly developed by Indian Railways’ Engineers & DRDO’s scientists. Approximately 4,000 MT of human waste is discharged from train coaches every day. With the proliferation of bio-toilets in 60 percent of coaches, commensurate human discharge in the open has been greatly reduced.
Other Cleanliness Initiatives
It is adequately clear that cleanliness in the trains is a huge factor determining passenger satisfaction and influences sustained usage of Railway services. The government has taken cognizance of that and there is a slew of initiatives directed at improved cleanliness and hygiene. Some of these include-
- Cleaning of train coaches including toilets of trains is done at both ends including mechanized cleaning.
- On Board Housekeeping Service (OBHS) has been provided in more than 980 pairs of trains including Rajdhani, Shatabdi and other important long-distance Mail/Express trains for cleaning of coach toilets, doorways, aisles and passenger compartments during the run of the trains.
- On demand ‘Clean My Coach’ service is provided in nearly 970 pairs of important Superfast/Mail/Express long-distance trains having On Board Housekeeping Service.
- By expanding the scope of ‘Clean My Coach’, ‘Coach Mitra’ Service has been provided in nearly 800 OBHS trains as a single window interface to register all coach related requirements of passengers travelling in reserved coaches, such as cleaning, disinfection, linen, train lighting, air conditioning and watering of coaches.
- Through Coach Mitra, more than 71,000 service requests were received from April, 2017 to December, 2017. Nearly 90 % of those service requests were attended.
- Clean Train Station (CTS) scheme has also been prescribed for limited mechanized cleaning attention to identified trains including cleaning of toilets during their scheduled stoppages enroute at nominated stations.
- Washing of bed linen (except blanket) provided for AC passengers is done after every single use. Earlier, blankets were being cleaned at least once in two months. Prescribed washing frequency of blankets has been recently increased to minimum once in a month. 59 mechanized laundries have been set up in the Railways.
- Railways budget of 2015, 2016 and 2017 have introduced series of measures to improve the cleanliness of stations under ‘Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat’ initiative. One of the measures given in 2016 Budget is ranking of A1 and A category stations based on regular periodic third-party audit and feedback from passengers.
- Railways has ranking system to recognize clean stations in different categories and also ranking for Railways zones. Ministry’s Swachh Rail portal showcase rankings of stations and trains, methodology adopted for rankings and stations/trains specific dashboards. It has provision for passengers’ feedback also.
Thus, Railways in recent years seems to have shaken-up the apparent status quo mentality that public transport can’t do anything about cleanliness as it involves people’s behaviour. There is a recognition of the need for cleanliness in public transport and the government has been stepping up its efforts.