CONSUMER RIGHTS

Toilet-training on tracks

The dirt and stink at our railway stations call for proper toilet discharge system in trains.
Pushpa Girimaji emphasises upon the need for clean toilets on trains.

The Railways has neglected hygiene
The Railways has neglected hygiene

One may well scoff at the reference to the "development of an environment-friendly coach toilet discharge system" in the Railway Ministerís budget speech last fortnight. One newspaper referred to it as the budgetís faecal point but it brought out the most unhygienic and neglected aspect of the Indian Railways.

At present, since the discharge`A0is directly on the tracks, the entire railway network, including the stations, is like open toilets. In fact, one shudders when one sees our heroes and heroines lying on the Railway track for a particularly dramatic episode in a movie. Not at the thought of them being run over ó one knows that itís a movie ó but at the thought of what might have been on the track once! (Even if it is cleaned up before the shoot).

I am glad that finally the railways have thought of the hygiene on the tracks and the Railway Minister has promised toilet discharge systems along the lines of toilets in aircraft. Itís surprising that this had not been done before and one hopes that this project goes off well and quickly. In fact, the present toilet system of the railways have rendered railway stations not just dirty, but smelly too. Itís time the stink from the railway tracks and the stations is cleared.

The Railway Minister has also promised a nationwide cleanliness drive on the trains and at the stations. This is indeed welcome. In fact, the cleanliness drive needs to be taken, pardon the clich`E9- on a war footing.

Today, India is moving towards being a major economic power, but one finds it difficult to believe it, if one looks at the dirt and the stink at our railway stations. Major railways stations in the Europe, for example, are as good as international airports or even better. Besides the facilities available to the passengers and the cleanliness, they also have major shopping arcades. Itís time the Railway Ministry thought of handing over the development of our railway stations to private players and earned some revenue from it too, through shopping malls. Of course, the entire architecture should be planned in such a way as to make it accessible to physically challenged persons. These should also be senior citizen friendly.

Similarly, the trains should be kept scrupulously clean at all times and the availability of water ensured. How can one expect cleanliness in toilets if there is no supply of water? It is indeed sad that railway passengers had to go to the consumer court to get the railways to provide the most basic of all facilities ó water on running trains. Only last year, the consumer court upheld the award of Rs 10,000 as compensation to Mr Yashwant Tiwari for the suffering undergone by him and his family for the lack of water in the toilet. Apparently, a water pipe connected to the coach had broken and this was not mended despite repeated complaints and reminders. The fact that the railwaysí revision petition before the apex consumer court was turned down should come as a warning to the railways not to take these issues lightly. (RP No 1065 of 2002).

In an earlier case, the Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had asked the railways to pay Mr P. G. Pohare, Rs 5000 as compensation and Rs 500 as costs of litigation besides refunding his travel expenditure. In this case, Mr and Mrs Pohare were driven out of their coach because they committed the "crime" of demanding clean toilets on the train. The earlier the railways paid more attention to cleanliness, the better.

HOME