Using toilets at railway stations could soon be cheaper or even free at smaller railway stations, according to a new proposal by the Railway Board. Presently, the ‘pay and use’ toilet policy allows the contractors who build such toilets to fix its usage rates, albeit at market price. According to the new policy, the Divisional Railway Managers have been empowered to decide if they want these toilets to be paid for or keep them free for use of the public.
“DRMs are empowered to make location specific assessments to decide whether construction, operation, maintenance of the pay and use toilets should be taken up as an ‘earning contract’ or a service contract,” said a letter dated February 7 from the Railway Board to all zonal railways after the Board’s meeting on February 2.
In a service contract, the toilets would be free or a nominal fee would be charged from the user. Senior officials of railways told PTI that the need for a review of the pay and use toilet policy was felt after reports that adequate number of toilets were not being built under the Swachh Bharat Mission and that people were not using these toilets at small rural railway stations.
“In many areas, specially at small stations, people were not using the pay and use toilets and instead choosing to defecate in the open. “Now, DRMs can decide, depending on the kind of stations they are catering to, and see if the pay and use system is commercially viable or not”, said a senior official of the ministry.
The official said that the DRMs also have been given the power to assess how many toilets need to be built in their areas under the Swachh Bharat Mission. They can build them through NGOs or self-help groups which can either charge a nominal fee for their use or nothing at all. The DRMs have been allowed to sign MOUs with non-profits which specialise in such toilets under the new policy. Officials say that this policy will be reviewed in a month’s time.
While pay and use toilet tariffs at railway stations differ from place to place, according to a 2012 guideline for such toilets, the railways has fixed up to Rs two for latrine and Rs 5 for using bathroom or both bathroom and latrine. It levied no charge for urinals. However, most pay and use toilets charge one rupee to Rs 2 for urinals and Rs 15 to Rs 20 for bathing.