INDIAN RAILWAYS transports millions of people every day through its wide network of trains in India. It is probably the largest network in the world. These days, it has been in the news, too, due to its turn around as a profit making organization. One thing, which needs desperate and immediate attention in Indian railways, is the sanitation level in the trains.
Indian Railways disposes off human excreta into open throughout the length and breadth of the country through its toilets in the trains. I say it is world’s largest open defecation system. On the one hand, Indian government has taken up special campaigns like “Total Sanitation Campaign” to reduce open defecation and is offering “Nirmal Grams” awards to villages that are getting rid of open defecation. On the other hand, trains passing through many villages and towns continue to throw their waste in open and pollute the environment.
The toilets in Indian railways were made the way they are keeping in view the principle that the waste will go on track, which is uninhabited and the heat of sun will sterilize it. In modern times, this principle doesn’t hold. Moreover, these toilets are not meant to be used while the train is standing at the station. Not many people follow that rule. This, compounded with other waste we throw on the tracks, leads to what we get to see on many stations in India, including the New Delhi railway station.
Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains are thought to be the ‘the cleaner trains.’ It can be seriously doubted. Toilets get dirty and start smelling just a few stations after the start of the journey. Many of us think that these trains are the best and have good food. May be they are comparatively better than other trains, but they are not that clean either. We can just mention, for example, that cups, in which tea is served, are washed just with water – no soap is applied. Blankets are hardly dry-cleaned and they are just folded after one passenger leaves and given to the passenger coming in. I don’t want to go beyond this because the reality is grimmer. Media has picked up the issue of unhealthy food served in both these prestigious trains many times.
I’m talking of 1st class air-conditioned bogeys only. I have still not mentioned about ordinary second class in which millions travel every day. If this is the situation in our best trains, what would be the condition in passenger trains which transport the bulk of our population. A glance at toilets at 9.00 am in any class will reveal the truth.
Much of the problem lies with the mindset of the passengers too. We also do not treat railways as our own. We are more worried about our seat and ourselves when we are in train. May be we needed to be more sensitive on this issue. Though we need some stringent measures to curb the menace, but rules alone will not work.
This also does not take away the responsibility of Indian railways, which charges money for its services. Indian Railways does not do anything for free. It is the right of the consumers to get benefits from the money they invest. It is high time we all start demanding for the services we deserve and let them feel that they have better things to do than showcasing their development to students from overseas universities.