BHUBANESWAR: All new passenger coaches in trains will have bio-toilets within two years as Indian Railways has targeted to completely eliminate production of coaches with direct discharge toilet system by 2016-17.
By 2021-22, the entire fleet of passenger coaches will be free from open toilets, the Railway Board has committed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
In its report submitted to the Commission, the Railway Board stated that the production of coaches equipped with bio-toilets has been increased substantially and will become the norm within the set deadline. Besides, work on retro-fitting bio-toilets in existing passenger coaches has been accelerated. Major workshops that undertake mid-life rehabilitation of passenger coaches have been geared up to work on the in-service coaches.
As per the report, the Railways fitted around 7,295 bio-toilets in 2,774 coaches by December 2013. About 5,732 bio-toilets have been fitted in 2,115 coaches in 2013-14, up to December 2013, alone, the report stated.
The Commission had sought a report from the Railway Board on the basis of a petition filed by Odisha-based human rights activist Akhand against direct discharge toilets in trains, a major contributor to the problem of open defecation in the country. Carrying over 11 million passengers every day, Indian Railways with over 8,700 trains is the largest open toilet in the world as the coaches directly discharge excreta on the tracks. The consequences include unhygienic conditions, particularly at railway stations, the petitioner had complained.
Complying with the direction, the Railways stated that it was making sincere efforts to overcome the problem of discharging human waste from train toilets on the tracks. The task of fitting 50,000 coaches with bio-toilets is enormous. Extensive trials and experiments have been done and it has been decided to fit and proliferate the Indian Railway-DRDO bio-toilet design based on trials.
However, the Railway Board has also conceded that retro-fitment of bio-toilets on existing coaches is technically difficult and can have safety concerns. A working group has been constituted with experts from designing, production unit, zones to monitor and resolve various technical issues that arise from time to time and expedite pace of fitment.
The Commission has sought a response from the petitioner on the Railway Board report by August 4.