Subodh Jain, general manager, CR, has set hygiene and sanitation as his topmost priority since he assumed office in November 2011.
The problems commuters have been facing in terms of cleanliness and sanitation are acute. How does CR plan to address them?
There is a three-pronged approach to hygiene – cleanliness inside the coaches, cleanliness on platforms and foot over bridges, and cleanliness in the toilets. With coaches, we have now started washing them every day instead of the earlier routine of merely sweeping them.
As for cleanliness on platforms and foot over bridges, the surfaces are such that washing them is not possible. So we have sent a proposal to the railway board to allot funds for constructing tiled surfaces on platforms and paver blocks for foot over bridges. The big challenge, though, are the toilets.
Providing decent toilet facility is the most basic service. Where has the railways gone wrong at the ground level? Traditionally, the authorities have not focused much on toilet services. Funds are not separately allocated or set aside for sanitation; we have to rely on public-private-partnership (PPP).
In 2006, toilets began to be leased out to private organisations which was how the PPP model got off the ground. We have been constantly trying to renew this system since then to make it more effective.
Why has PPP failed so far in maintaining toilets?
We need to understand the pysche of contractors. They are there to make money. Hence, we have changed our revenue policies. Earlier, the railway was concerned about collecting rent of the land from contractors. But now, we have adopted a different model; we charge only a token licence fee and insist on quality of toilets.
We plan to construct deluxe pay-and-use toilets at every platform on Thane station on an experimental basis. We hope this will become operational by June. If the experiment is successful, we can consider expanding the scheme to smaller stations I am confident that this model will work.