Commuters visiting toilets at railway stations know all too well that it is not a task for the faint-hearted, as the stench can be unbearable and the unhygienic conditions at these loos can send anyone scampering for the door. Toilets at the Central Railways (CR) are filthy and many remain locked most of the time as a result of clogged drains, foul odour and filthy urinals and flushes.
Without as much as considering making these toilets usable and clean, the CR administration has sent a proposal to construct air-conditioned (AC) facilities at stations, which has been approved. The project is set to be given on contract by next month and is expected to be completed in two to four months. The plan is to charge commuters for using the facilities.
According to results of a recent survey, 93 per cent of the toilets at stations are not useable or locked and only 17 per cent of the toilets are meant for female commuters.
Last year, MiD DAY visited all toilets at CR stations and Western Railways (WR) stations and found that a vast majority of them were not in a condition to be used by commuters. Many were locked and most emitted a foul odour enough to turn the staunchest visitor away. Over 70 lakh passengers commute on the WR and CR suburban section, of which over 20 lakh are female commuters.
According to a survey conducted by Observer Research Foundation (ORF), only 17 per cent of the toilets on these lines are meant for women commuters.
“The condition of toilets at railway stations is really pathetic. The city, which gave birth to the railways in 1853, has sub-standard toilets at all its stations. The chances of getting urinary tract infection here are six times higher than anywhere else,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, ORF chairman, Mumbai.
Teena Shah, a marketing executive in a private firm at Grant road, said, “Instead of providing AC toilets, the railways should first visit the existing toilets to see the condition they are in. We just need toilets that we can use without being suffocated by the foul odour.” Another commuter Rahul Kumar, who is a student and works as a part-time teacher, said, “Once I leave college for the day, I have no place to use a toilet. As I commute by train, the only option is to use toilets at railway stations. The railways should first clean the existing ones and then think of making AC toilets.”
Subodh Jain, general manager, CR, said, “More than five proposals are in the pipeline for AC toilets at railway stations. Construction will start shortly.”
According to railway officials, the decision to construct AC toilets was taken by senior officers, for which users will be required to pay a minimum charge. “The officers felt the need for this change, as lakhs of passengers commute everyday and have no clean toilets to use in time of need. The proposal has been accepted and the project will be given on contract shortly,” said an official.
The toilets will also have other modern facilities like washbasins, soap dispensers and hand driers. The plan is to maintain these toilets on par with toilets at malls and multiplexes, which includes the same level of cleanliness and ambience.
The railways will provide the space for the AC toilets and maintenance and other responsibilities would be taken care of by the contractor.
“We will be charging users a fee as per the rules, and no extra charge will be collected for the air-conditioned facilities. Also, a request has been sent to keep these toilets open round the clock so as to benefit passengers at all times,” said the official, adding that there were a major number of complaints from female passengers and demands for cleaner toilets.