The Southern Railways Thursday issued a clarification regarding the alleged suspension of Onboard Housekeeping Services (OBHS) on their trains. This comes days after a circular, allegedly sent by the Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer, asked the senior officials to issue a notice to the contractors and suspend OBHS operation with immediate effect from September 1.
An announcement from a senior railway official, as seen on social media, sparked fears in the minds of passengers as the absence of housekeeping staff in trains would pave the way for dirty coaches and toilets. Under these circumstances, the Southern Railways took to Twitter and said that at no point did they consider stopping OBHS on their trains.
“An alarmist situation has been portrayed. There was a funds mismatch issue, which has been sorted out and bills over Rs 50 crore are being processed for payment. At no stage, did Southern Railways consider stopping OBHS and other allied services on Southern Railway trains. The OBHS, pest control, linen supply, toilet maintenance, etc. on all identified 110 trains. Southern Railways is deeply committed to the Swacch Bharat Mission and shall ensure continued improvement in its services to the passengers,” read a tweet by the Southern Railways General Manager.
But the announcement seems to be a damage control measure. According to reports, Southern Railways is suffering from an acute financial crisis and was trying to cut-down on OBHS and other allied services in trains mostly starting from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The issue had been raised by SR to the center a few months ago.
Southern Railways had last month informed the Centre that the shortage of revenue funds for essential passenger amenity activities, including OBHS, linen, etc, had reached an alarming proportion. It had listed the pending bills to the contractors and the requirement of more than Rs 100 crore to keep the services running. There were reports that for the past few months Southern Railways had not paid the service contractors who in turn were unable to pay salaries to their staff.
However, after the clarification, passengers can heave a sigh of relief about the sanitation inside the train coaches.