CHENNAI : You will no longer be fleeced by contractors who maintain common toilets at select railway stations in the Chennai division as the Southern Railway has created a mechanism to provide payment receipts. The new facility was introduced in 11 stations — Perambur, Tambaram, Mambalam, Chengalpattu, Tiruvallur, Arakkonam, Melmaruvathur, Avadi, Tiruttani, Ambur and Jolarpettai - in the last few days. Contractors are allowed to collect `2 for peeing and `5 for using toilets. “A person manned at toilets will provide receipts from the hand-held device for `2 and `5,” said an official of the commercial department in the Chennai division. Receipts are part of the steps taken to improve hygiene in the highly congested stations, following frequent complaints of poor maintenance of toilets.
Toilet maintenance works at the Central and Egmore stations attract a lot of bidders as these stations handle more than 50,000 passengers a day and the contract value is around `90 lakh to `1 crore a year. However, contractors are reluctant to maintain many other crowded stations, including Tambaram, Avadi, Tiruvallur and Arakkonam, owing to poor collections. So, the railway has introduced a revenue-sharing contract model to attract more people to maintain toilets.
“Contractors have to pay 65 to 70 per cent of the collection on a daily basis to the railways. The rest would be the contractors’ share. Highest bidders have been awarded contracts in 11 stations. Equipment expenses must be borne by the contractor. He must provide receipts to commuters,” explained the official.
Through the revenue-sharing model, officials estimated a income of `10 lakh a year. The printing machines will not only account for the daily total usage but also ensure that passengers are not fleeced. Rail passengers earlier were asked to pay `5 for using the urinal and `10 for the loo at the Chennai Central and Egmore stations. Often pilgrims and tourists from north India and workers from northeastern states had been manhandled in the past at the Central, asking them to pay up to `20 for using toilets.
Admitting to receiving complaints, the official said they were studying the possibility to introduce the device at Central and Egmore. “As and when complaints are received, we will impose a penalty on the contractor, ranging from `2,000 to `5,000. In the event of repeat complaints, we will initiate procedures to terminate the contract. We are also studying contractual conditions to check for legal hindrances to introduce hand-held billing devices at Central and Egmore, as the contract has already been awarded,” added the officer.
When Express visited the Perambur and Tambaram stations, the introduction of receipt at toilets had surprised many rail commuters. However, the contractor had initial difficulties in handling the device. S Sathish, who got the receipt at Perambur, said that it is great on the railway’s part to provide receipt for `2. They should continuously monitor the implementation of the facility,” he added.
Of the 161 stations under the Chennai railway division, apart from Central, Egmore and other 11 stations, 120 less patronised stations to be divided into two categories will be maintained by awarding toilet contracts. Social organisations like NGOs and self-help groups will be given the task of maintaining select stations in the Chennai - Gummidipundi section, without any revenue share. Besides, Southern Railway is planning to pay contractors at remote stations in the Tiruvallur-Jolarpettai section and Chengalpattu-Villupuram section under the viable cap funding model.
“Under the VAF model, apart from the toilet collection, the railways will pay funds required for maintaining the toilets,” added railway sources. This will ensure that all 161 stations in the Chennai division will be provided with public toilets.