In his first meeting with Railways Ministry officials in May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised the issue of maintaining cleanliness in trains and stations, and offered some “suggestions” in this regard.
Incorporating these “suggestions”, Railways Minister D V Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday announced a 40 per cent increase in the allocation of funds — the highest in any Rail Budget so far — for measures to improve sanitation and cleanliness. The total budget allocation under this head is now about Rs 1,000 crore.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s words that “cleanliness is next to godliness”, Gowda listed the new initiatives. The objective: railway stations and trains must stop being identified with foul smell, unclean toilets and garbage by the end of the year.
A separate corpus fund for upkeep of stations will be set up. Professional agencies will be roped in for cleaning work in 50 major stations. For the first time, Railways will have a separate wing for housekeeping.
Currently, the job of keeping Railways’ properties clean falls on multiple shoulders — from commercial to health directorates, civil engineering to land and amenities. “The minister plans to bring all this together under a separate wing so that the buck cannot be passed around,” said a Railway Board member.
The on-board housekeeping service, an outsourced job in 400 trains, will be extended to all major long-distance trains. Direct discharge from toilets will be stopped with the speedy rollout of bio-toilets in trains. In this connection, Railways has stopped according priority to laying washable “aprons” (concrete surface beneath the railway tracks at stations) because zero-discharge toilets will be rolled out soon.
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The government will also launch an “adopt-a-station” scheme, under which corporates, NGOs and charitable trusts can take responsibility for the upkeep of a particular station.
In keeping with Modi’s “suggestion” to use technology for ensuring cleanliness, Gowda said CCTVs will be used to monitor the cleanliness drive. “An all-India helpline number will be printed on the back of all PRS tickets. A system of periodic third party inspections will be introduced,” he said.
Gowda has already communicated to the 17 zonal railways and 68 divisions to focus on cleanliness, carry out daily inspections and increase fines for littering.