The cloth material used to produce bright orange uniform worn by trackmen, and the plain white uniform worn by other railway staff will now used to make over one lakh washable face masks by Railways as the government makes wearing masks mandatory for public places and at work.
Northern Railway, which has been leading the charge in making COVID-19-related material, like isolation coaches, PPE coverall suits and hand sanitiser, has issued instructions to make the masks from the cloth in its store with the material meant for standard-issue uniform of railwaymen. Each mask will cost Rs 5.94, whereas the same quality mask in market costs around Rs 7.50, officials have found.
The workshops identified 5,000 meters of surplus cloth meant for orange and white uniforms, lying idle for some time. In railway store parlance they are called “non-moving items” meaning there has been no demand for them. The estimate calculated by engineers is that it can yield over one lakh masks in no time and can be supplied across India for its various units on demand.
The idea came while stitching masks in its 150 year-old workshops in Charbagh and Alambagh in Lucknow. The workmen there realized that a lot of such cloth was there for the taking especially when demand for such masks is skyrocketing within the system.
The mask designs available in the market were then studied and a design finalised in consultation with railway hospitals. Officials say the basic requirement of completely covering the nose and mouth and correct tension of elastic etc has been ensured.
“Our engineers saying that in the country’s war against COVID-19, these items are like weapons at the hands of people. So in a way they are manufacturing weapons in this fight against the virus,” Arun Arora, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer of Northern Railway told The Indian Express.
“These are cheaper than the ones in the market and yet much superior in quality, as per our tests,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been promoting the use of homemade masks. “Among the most important tasks today- be a part of #TeamMaskForce. Small but essential precautions can keep us all safe. Important to spread awareness about it…,” Modi tweeted Saturday endorsing the wearing of masks even as BCCI is using its star players in campaign on it called Team Mask Force. It is learnt that officers wear masks even on official video conferences these days.
Among the most important tasks today- be a part of #TeamMaskForce.
Small but essential precautions can keep us all safe.
Important to spread awareness about it… https://t.co/50vY3lF20J
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 18, 2020
One lot has been supplied to the railway hospitals and other workshops. Railway staff colonies in Delhi have placed order on payment basis. So far, Northern Railway alone has made some 31,000 masks from various sources during the whole lockdown period.
The myriad production units run by Indian Railways manufacturing coaches, locomotives, wheels and other items will be reopening following the relaxation guildelines used by the government on April 15.
Wearing masks is required, so the zonal railway is ramping up production to supply to various centres as much as possible. The top brass of Rail Bhawan, the ministry, also reportedly started using these masks.