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Railway Budget
Union Rail Budget 2014-2015: Suggestions of a citizen journalist on improving cleanliness & hygiene in train & platforms
After my two articles namely 'Union Railways Budget 2014-2015:Suggestion of a citizen journalist' and 'Union Railway budget 2014-2015: Take steps to make trains run on time' published in this platform, in this concluding article I would discuss on cleanliness and better hygienic condition of inside trains as well as platforms.

India is the world's largest railways network. Even Narendra Modi's vision is to make Indian Railways as a world class asset. But unfortunately Indian Railways lack drastically in cleanliness and famous for unhygienic conditions. In Hollywood movies whenever they show Indian railway coaches, it appears they show it in poor light although whatever they show in fact is a reality. Someday ago I was seeing a documentary in Discovery channel, where the reporter documented on various religious places of South India. In the process she boarded in an AC first class compartment. Their camera lens focused to the floor of the coach where lot of dirt deposited and cockroaches roaming. The reporter said 'After all its Indian Railways!'

It hurt me as well as everyone who saw that documentary. But you can't help on such comments as in reality all these are facts! When you travel in a train, sometime after it leaves the originating station, coaches irrespective of class get's dirtier and none cleans those. The bedrolls of even Rajdhani express forget about other trains stinks although they claim it's washed hygienically.  The cleaned towels, bed-sheets etc looks un-cleaned and unhygienic. The blankets perhaps never washed!

Toilets are just in horrible condition. Many try to avoid use of toilets. It's not only full of excreta and purely unhygienic. The eco-toilets installed in some of trains are also in a horrible state and you would vomit seeing the condition!

Cleanliness of platforms as well is a big concern. Although in some of big stations platform number-1 is being cleaned regularly but other platforms remain dirty? None cleans the toilets at platforms and waiting rooms! You can only use such toilets if nature's call makes you desperate!

Earlier Railways was doing all the cleaning and providing hygienic condition departmentally. Somehow during Nitish Kumar's tenure such service is made out-sourced to provide improved service! Contractors and agencies came in but the condition remained same! In some important stations you may find some uniform cleaner cleaning the coaches during train halt in that station. But this isn't enough!

In coach catering is too out-sourced. But quality of food has never improved! The total picture is that despite all developments, cleanliness and hygienic condition of both train and platform remains same as was decades ago. Some thinks that it's not possible to make our Railways a clean and hygienic enterprise!

However I think otherwise. It definitely can't be improved if it's supervised by Railway department. The bill-checking officer of such agencies seats in his office and pass their bill. The TTE's change in every division and seldom complain against such agencies for obvious reasons. Thus people suffer while railways pay money to agencies although their service is below standard.

I propose that these service providers such as (cleaning people, hygienic treatment agency, bedroll providers, catering agencies etc) must be scrutinized through social audit. The passenger with valid tickets must be provided forms where they can rate various services such cleanliness in the coach, hygienic condition of toilets, condition of bedrolls, quality of foods, behavior of service providers etc. All valid ticket holders must fill up the form and give suggestion for further improvement in suggestion column! Make it mandatory. No commuter ever would deny giving his opinion. The TTE or train superintendent must collect the forms before the passenger de-boards. All these feed backs must be assessed transparently (subject to RTI also) and the payment to the agencies must be linked with these social audits. For example if 80% appreciated (Excellent and good) the agency would get 100% payment. If more than 50% passengers rates service as average, there could be penalty of some percentage of the bill. If more than 50% passengers rated the service as poor, then their payment may be forfeited. In case there is a 100% rating (excellent and good combined), then reward the service provider with incentives.

Point is simple, if there is responsibility and accountability on the service providers with provision of penalty and incentives; they ought to improve the service. In these cases as commuter is directly suffering, thus social auditing by the passengers is the best audit. Believe me such passenger audit will change the condition of railways (for cleanliness and hygiene) in a very short period!

Air carriers are using such feedback program. In Railways it can be used as social audit or commuter audit or passenger scrutiny! This could be a game changer to our age-old cleanliness problem in trains and platforms, provided the Railways implement this.

Modi government seeks ideas and suggestion from everyone on improving condition of all sectors. Thus as a committed citizen, my proposal is as above. Let's see what the new government thinks. I also think that all should provide their suggestions and proposals on any aspect you think can improve our condition!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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