Not on the Right Clean Track
NEW DELHI: To compliment Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had initiated the ‘Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat’ campaign last year. But in just a few months’ time, the project has run into rough waters with the Railways not even appointing nodal officers, who were to spearhead the cleanliness drive.
After flagging off the campaign in October last year, the Railways had decided to appoint one regional nodal officer for each region—north, south, east and west– but to date only one regional nodal officer for northern region has been appointed, while the other posts are still vacant.
As per the plan, these regional nodal officers are to be responsible for spearheading and coordinating the work in their regions to upgrade the cleanliness and sanitation standards at the railway stations. However, in their absence a coordinated effort for is missing.
It’s not just about appointing the nodal officers, even after launching the campaign, the Railways had never done a comprehensive in-house audit on sanitation and cleanliness issues, and until recently, did not even have a proper action plan for monitoring the cleanliness and sanitation standards at various stations and on trains. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its report had several times slammed the Railways for failing to conduct pest controlling. It had also raised concerns over the unclean toilets and serving unhygienic food to the passengers.
During his budget speech this February, Prabhu had announced a series of measures to ensure that the trains and the stations were kept clean. Soon after the minister’s announcement, the Environment and Housekeeping Directorate was also created. This, however, has created more confusion rather than speeding up the work.
“Inaction is hurting the campaign badly. Already there has been a long delay in appointment of the nodal officers, and now there is a talk of merging the positions of nodal officers with the newly formed Environment and Housekeeping Directorate. But final call on that is also pending,” said a senior Railway ministry official.
Shortage of staff and lack of awareness among the present Railway personnel are also posing major challenges for the Railways. Not sure about their role, many Ticket Collectors, who are supposed to fine the passengers for littering the compartments, keep turning a blind eye.
For instance, the New Delhi and Old Delhi railway stations, which together has a daily footfall of around 10 lakh does not even record 150 fines a day for littering—which is not even .01 per cent of the total daily passengers.
Fine for littering stations and tracks are just a deterrent and the average number of people fined at New Delhi and Old Delhi stations is 80 per day, while till few months ago the average was much less. The figure of fine includes—littering on tracks, station premises and the trains. The rate of fine was last revised in 2012 and it ranges between Rs 50 and Rs 500.
The Railways official says that they are taking series of measures to ensure cleanliness, but it requires huge amount of time. Railways is also introducing cleaning machines and intensive cleaning at night to intensify cleanliness. Even CCTV cameras are being installed at stations to monitor the level of cleanliness.
To make sure that the staff members are aware of their duties, the department have also held series of discussions across the northern region in the past few months. “Our main focus is to change their idea of cleanliness and change their Chalta hai attitude. But it will take time,” the official admitted.
The Railway minister had also announced a range of initiatives like introducing disposable garbage bags, built-in dustbins in train compartments, training for the cleaning staff, bio-toilets. But most of these plans are yet to be implemented.