The Pune railway station,which authorities claim is primed to become world class,is literally raising a stink these days. Thousands of passengers can be seen covering their mouths and noses with handkerchiefs. The reason: uncleaned tracks with mounds of human excreta generating an unbearable stench.
On Saturday,65-year-old J M Marale,a former civic school principal,almost fainted and had to be carried away from platform 4. As soon as I got on the platform from the foot-overbridge,the strong stink overpowered me. I was about to collapse when my relatives held me, said Marale. She had gone to see off her relatives heading for Mumbai.
In another instance,35-year-old Aarti Pagaria had to run away from the platform and plonk herself on the foot-overbridge till the train to Hyderabad arrived. This happened on July 20. She had to spray perfume on her handkerchief to cover her mouth. There was no alternative. The stink on platforms 5 and 6 was so awful it was difficult to stand there. I came down from the foot-overbridge only when the train was about to arrive, she said. Some of her co-passengers,too,used perfumes to mitigate the foul odour.
Aartis husband,Kalpesh Pagaria,a civic activist,said,I often travel by train. The stink was always there but it has become unbearable now. I checked all the platforms. One could see heaps of human faeces on the tracks. It seems the railways had not cleaned them for days.
Pagaria added,Every other person,especially women,had covered their mouths and noses. What are the authorities doing? Cant they keep the tracks clean?
Officials of the Pune division of Central Railway concede that the tracks are dirty,but blame it on the drastic water cut by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). We require 22 lakh litres of water every day,but for past two months,we are getting only 11 lakh litres. As a result,providing water in trains is of top priority. Little water is available for cleaning the tracks, said railway spokesperon Y K Singh.
Railway officials said passengers were also to blame for the situation. We repeatedly request passengers not to use toilets when the trains are on platforms,but no one pays heed, he said. Over 200 long-distance trains pass through Pune station while 20 begin their journey from here.
PMC water department in-charge V G Kulkarni said they have reduced water supply from March 1. I will send my officials to the railways on Monday to look into the problem, he said.
Harsha Shah,president of Railway Pravasi Sangh,blamed the system of awarding railway contracts to private parties. Several railway jobs have been privatised. When private parties do not get their payment on time,they dont do their jobs properly. Besides,private contractors are harsh with their employees,who in turn do not put in their best, Shah said. He urged the PMC to increase water supply for passengers sake.