People travelling in long-distance trains under the Southern Railways (SR) from September 1 might witness stinky toilets, dirty bedsheets and unclean coaches, as the Southern Railway has decided to cancel Onboard House Keeping services (OBHS) temporarily in 86 long-distance trains.
The unprecedented step comes after Sothern Railways sent an SOS to Railway Ministry seeking to release funds to immediately pay the contractors. However, the Centre has not responded to the SOS sent by the Southern Railways’ General Manager – Rahul Jain.
According to The Hindu, Southern Railway’s Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer – Shubranshu has asked the senior officials in Chennai, Palghat, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Salem, and Tiruchi Divisions to send notices to contractors to suspend OBHS operations.
These are the only trains in Southern Railway which might be clean on Southern Railway. The rest of the 86 trains will have no cleaning while it runs. Southern Railway says its because of funds crunch. pic.twitter.com/2ljGP7xg4j
— Vasu (@vasudevan_k) August 21, 2019
However, of the total 110 long-distance trains, OBHS services will continue in only 24 trains which includes Grand Trunk Express, Kerala Express, Tamil Nadu Express, and Navajeevan Express.
He had said, “A conscious decision has been taken to keep the operation of OBHS contract in abeyance…estimation of the money saved due to this exercise should be sent to Headquarters by 22/08/2019.”
Earlier this month, looking at the financial crunch, Southern Railways had asked the Centre to immediately release a fund of Rs 152 crore to pay the pending bills of Rs 22 crore to the contractors and Rs 130 crore to maintain the housekeeping services.
The Southern Railway for the financial year 2019-20 were allocated Rs 108 crore against its projected requirement of funds of Rs 194 crore.
The unprecedented cash crunch surfaced after the Railway Board started stressing on the central government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and other campaigns highlighting cleanliness and hygiene. After the introduction of OBHS, passenger complaints about stinking toilets, unclean bed sheets, and dirty coaches dropped precipitously.
A senior official was quoted in the English daily saying that ‘dozen of contractors’ handle the entire OBHS, pest control and linen supply services. But the railways lack manpower for continuing these services if the contracts are terminated. He also said that this is the first time they have faced such a financial crisis.
The Ministry of Railways a few days ago had released the “New Railways-New Tamil Nadu” document which clearly highlights the achievements under the Narendra Modi government in the last five years. The document also underlined that the Modi government has increased the budget to the railways by 125 per cent since 2014 -2019 in comparison to 2009-14.
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