.”Is cleaning only the responsibility of the karamcharis? Do citizens have no role in this? We have to change this mindset.” – Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi

We reached Mars. No PM or Minister went. It was the people who did it, our scientists who did it. So can’t we create a Clean India?” – Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi

The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission

Do not wrinkle up your nose in disgust. Railway tracks littered with human excreta may soon be a thing of the past. Aiming to eliminate direct discharge toilets from its entire fleet of passenger coaches by 2020-21, Indian Railways has drawn up an action plan to replace them with environment-friendly bio-toilets.

A view of bio-toilet in a rail compartment
A view of bio-toilet in a rail compartment

Direct discharge of human waste from the existing toilet system in trains causes corrosion of tracks, costing crores to the public transporter to replace the rail tracks. The new-age green toilets have been designed by Railways along with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), keeping in mind the requirements of Indian trains.

Monks of Bharat Sevashram Sangha cleaning Ballygunge Railway station in Kolkata
Monks of Bharat Sevashram Sangha cleaning Ballygunge Railway station in Kolkata

The bio-toilets have a colony of anaerobic bacteria, kept in a container under the lavatories, that converts human waste into water and small amounts of gases. The gases are released into the atmosphere and the water is discharged after chlorination on to the track. The railways currently uses flush toilets in trains, in which human waste is dumped directly on the track. This makes the environment unhygienic and railway stations an eyesore, apart from the fact that the faecal matter corrodes the tracks.

While 17,338 existing toilets in trains have been replaced with bio-toilets till date, Railway Ministry’s aim is to equip the entire coaching fleet with bio-toilets. According to the action plan, all new coaches would be fitted with bio-toilets by 2016-17, while the retrofitting of existing coaches with bio-toilets will continue.

Safai Karmacharis cleaning railway tracks
Safai Karmacharis cleaning railway tracks

While the process of fitting 10,500 bio-toilets in new coaches is in progress, the target for the 2015-16 fiscal is 17,000 bio-toilets, as part of the ‘Swachh Rail – Swachh Bharat’ programme. The Railways is also working towards improving the condition of toilet facilities at stations and in trains as it has been receiving several complaints from passengers regarding lack of cleanliness at these facilities.

The aim is to make Swachh Rail the driving force behind the government’s flagship programme – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Indian Railways, which has launched a cleanliness drive across the country, has collected a fine of Rs 4 crore in the last six months against spoiling and littering railways stations across the country.

Indian Railways has undertaken an initiative to make 367 km of tracks free from discharge of human waste from toilets on trains in the current fiscal. The Ministry of Railways had launched PM’s Clean India initiative on October 2 last year with the then Railway Minister Shri Sadanada Gowda leading the campaign with a broom in hand at New Delhi station. In the bio-toilets, seen as a sustainable solution to India’s sanitation challenges, the waste is digested by specially developed bacteria and only a small amount of clean water is discharged. Indian Railways has installed more than 17,000 bio-toilets on trains till March 2015 and has set a target for as many more this financial year. It costs about Rs 3 lakh to install four bio-toilets in a coach and about 6000 coaches are now fully equipped with the facility.

Therefore, the Mission, “To ensure Pure Waste Discharge from a toilet, thus playing a critical role in preventable healthcare” will soon be effective. Indian railway tracks will soon be free of human waste discharged from train toilets, and also from the ever growing stench on railway stations.

— By Shri Bidyut Bhattacharya, PIB, Kolkata

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