The railway authorities’ move to get food vendors at stations to install water filters had done little to slake the regular commuter’s thirst.
The filters -- comprising a box-like chamber and two cylinders -- have been connected to taps at food stalls at many suburban stations on the Western Railway (WR). But they are not clearly visible amid the clutter of other commodities -- colourful packets of other drinks, bottled water and cola, fruit and food items. So commuters continue to buy bottled water.
Officials claim the set-up and usage of the filters at these stalls haven’t been publicised enough, so people have been buying bottled water. “It has become a habit for people to purchase mineral water, even when the taps are fitted put with purification systems,” said a WR official.
Sometimes, the stall owners lead people to think the filters are not for public use, officials said.
When MiD DAY visited some of the stalls at Borivli, Malad, Goregaon, Andheri, Vile Parle, Bandra, Dadar and Mumbai Central -- all bustling stations -- we saw the filters were installed in the walls, sharing a switchboard with electric stove and refrigerators. But at many places the cords were pulled out of the switch. The stall owners, though, insisted they used the filters regularly. “We use them to fill water in our storage drums and bottles,” said a stall owner at Borivli.
There are 230-plus stall owners along the Western Railway line from Churchgate to Dahanu, and most claim to use the filtered water to make fruit juices, milkshakes and other drinks.
Even if one takes their word at face value, sanitation eludes the parched. Basic hygiene issues remain unaltered. When MiD DAY joined a couple of commuters at a railway platform in asking for water, it was served in a tea glass, and the vendor had no hesitation, or even awareness, that he was dipping his fingers halfway inside the glass.
When asked, stall owners claim they cannot afford to invest time over cleanliness while catering to throngs of commuters daily.
Railway officials agree the deep-grained predisposition to neglecting hygiene is a scourge common not only to railway terminals but any diner or public eatery in this city. “We try to maintain cleanliness at the stalls but certain things cannot be controlled,” said a railway official.
Kailash Verma, general secretary, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, said, “Even after water filters have been installed at railway stations, passengers are not getting clean and safe drinking water. Some months back, railway employees had complained in writing that they were not getting clean water to drink. Stall owners are just fooling passengers by leading them to believe the filters are for private use by stall owners.”
Sharat Chandrayan, chief public relations officer, WR said, “We have asked stall owners to give free water to people from these filters so as to ensure clean drinking water.”