It's my station: Mumbai citizens adopt railway station

Citizens claim a stake in rail hubs

PM Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan completed one year last month. The movement by the slick-tongued PM, spawned a number of campaigns. Some lasted a few days, others as little as a few clicks of the cameras as publicity hounds wielded brooms at certain strategic locations in the city for a quick media picture.

Mithibai College students clean Vile Parle station
Mithibai College students clean Vile Parle station

Yet others, though look like they are here to stay. Like, station adoption for instance. Rotary International District 3140, adopted eight railway stations in the city. These are Thane and Dombivali on the Central Railway, Borivali, Kandivali, Bandra and Khar Road on the Western Railway and Govandi and Mankhurd on the Harbour Line.

The Rotary will look after the upkeep of these eight stations right till 2018. This is a spin off from the concept of Swachh Bharat taken ahead by Railway Minister Sunil Prabhu when he urged the Railways to allow charitable institutions, social organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to adopt stations.

The Rotary actually followed a number of NGOs and colleges which have adopted Railway stations. The challenge is to let the campaigns sustain, not let eventual fatigue overcome initial fervour, and keep up the work.

Railway speak
Comparing the adoption of railway stations to the adoption of a child, SK Sood, General Manager of Central Railway says, “The Railways treated all stations equally and so we had standardised benches and toilets.

Now, with the adoption of stations, the local guardian will be in-charge of parking space, toilets, posters, etc. We want good people to come forward and not use this adoption to make profits by favouring certain contractors, but to make this a, for the public by the public initiative.”

Sood is confident that the station adoption drive in the city will gain momentum and be sustained over a period of time. “People are taking responsibility of their stations and this is spreading positive culture. Littering and spitting will stop, and it is when every person feels a sense of ownership about the station. like he or she feels about their house that it will achieve its goal,” he adds.

The adoption of Borivali, Kandivali, Bandra and Khar Road will be the first on the Western Railway. There has been cleanliness work carried out at Charni Road, Vile Parle and Malad stations by educational institutions from the area.

Sharat Chandrayan, chief Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Western Railway says, “This is our first attempt at allowing adoption on the Western Railways. We allowed clean ups at various stations prior to this, but that was for a very short duration.”

He drew a distinction between adoption and the clean ups saying that adoption gave the concerned institution the right to make structural changes, with the approval of the railways in addition to cleanliness and beautification.

Structural changes allowed are building more toilets, delegating railway land for parking, building benches, putting water coolers. Adoption also allows guardians to paint the walls near the ticket booking counters, platforms as well as the external walls. A number of other stations have been cleaned and adopted like King’s Circle and Wadala.

Charni Road
Looked after by: Wilson College
Work: Clean platforms, perform tests on food and water, conducted surveys on what commuters’ want and the problems they face, donated flower pots and dustbins.
Future plans: To continue the clean up campaign.

Wilson college students at Charni Road station
Wilson college students at Charni Road station

It was the proximity of the college to the station, since most students use it to commute, lead students of Wilson College to clean it up. Dr Kamal Jadhav, Executive Co-ordinator says, “The clean up happens every week with the Arts and Science students alternating.”

The students clean up platforms 1 and 4 as the Railway authorities have instructed them not to clean the busy and narrow platforms 2-3. “The students sweep the platforms; perform skits, songs and street plays on civic awareness, which are composed by them.

“The Microbiology students take samples of food and water at the station and conduct tests on them. The samples taken when the clean up started were not good, they complained to the Railway authorities and now it has improved,” adds Jadhav, indicating that the campaign is getting results.

Looked after by: Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Technology.
Work done: Clean platforms and area around station, anti-spitting and littering placards held up by students as they were cleaning. 
Future plans: Dr Jayalakshmi Nair, principal says, “We have always been at the forefront of initiating social causes in the larger interests of society.” Vinayak Sharma, a second year Computer Engineering student, says, “As students, we represent a vibrant force driving the vision that is India.

Students of VES Institute of Technology conduct a cleanliness drive at Chembur stationStudents of VES Institute of Technology conduct a cleanliness drive at Chembur station

If every student incorporates the vision of a clean and disease-free environment, every station will be spick and span.” But students do struggle to convince people to stop spitting or littering at times, and it is a challenge to be motivated and keep up the cleanliness drive.

Vile Parle
Looked after by: Mithibai College
Work done: Clean platforms, done painting.
Future plans: Plant saplings and water them.
The Rotaract club of Mithibai College, conducts a clean up at Vile Parle station twice every month. They choose a week day which is feasible for their volunteers. Armed with garbage bags and brooms they clean the station for 2-4 hours.

Apurv Gangar, Rotaract Head of the college says, “We sweep all the platforms and clean the paan stained walls and tiles at the station. We have been working on the cleanliness since a few months now. We even painted some graffiti on the West side of the station with messages about cleanliness and education. We have started a sapling project where a person who has adopted it, will have to water it.”

Adopted by: Die Hard Indian (NGO)
Work done: Painting walls, cleaning ticket counter areas on the ground and first floors, removing illegal posters on walls.
Future plans: Clean the platforms and paint the outer walls of the station. Conduct cleanliness awareness programmes. Gaurang Damani hopes to replicate his work done at King’s Circle station at Sion.

Sion station has been adopted by the NGO Die Hard Indian. Pic/Tushar Satam
Sion station has been adopted by the NGO Die Hard Indian. Pic/Tushar Satam

The walls of the counters have been painted by volunteers with paintings of Sion Fort, Nature Park, Khumbarwada and Koliwada as well as the Dharavi Sports Club from the area.

“I plan on revamping Sion station by using art work and employing a cleaner and security guards.” says Damani. Yet, it is difficult to stop vandalism of station property and the illegal posters keep coming back, leading to some frustration.

Adopted by: V K K Menon College
Work done: Clean station; educate commuters about sanitation, painted walls of the station. 
Future plans: Install wet and dry dustbins on the platforms; maintain a garden outside the station, paint walls near the ticket counter. V K K Menon College has adopted Bhandup station since July this year, and has been cleaning the station twice a week.

Sarada Menon from the college says, “Our students speak to commuters in Hindi, Marati or English about health and hygiene as well as sanitation issues, educating them of problems and solutions. They have also done Warli paintings and drawings on women’s empowerment. Proverbs and inspirational quotes on the walls of the station have been written by them, too.”

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