The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has pulled up the railways for foisting dirty sheets, pillow cases and blankets on passengers. The country's supreme audit authority has, in its latest report tabled in Parliament on Friday, pointed out that Indian Railways is not adhering to the time schedule fixed for washing and sanitation of linen and blankets used by passengers.
The Railway Board has instructed that washing of linen should be done after every single use and blankets be dry cleaned every two months. Various zonal railways claimed a periodicity of once every fortnight/month/once in two-three months for washing blankets, said the CAG report.
However, the CAG has collected data on the number of blankets in use and those washed during the three-year period from 2012-2013 to 2015-2016 in 33 depots of coaches which shows that the washing is not being done as per the norms established by the railways itself.
It was found that in 14 selected depots, under nine zonal railways, no blankets had been dry cleaned during the three-year period. The audit also revealed that except for seven depots under five zonal railways, linen had not been sanitised in the other selected depots.
During 2015-2016, in respect of 12 coaching depots of eight zonal railways, blankets had been washed after an interval of 6-26 months, the CAG report states. These depots included Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai, Sealdah (Kolkata), Gwalior, Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Lucknow, Secunderabad, and Hatia and Tatanagar in Jharkhand.
The report also said there were general stores depots which stored fresh linens along with those that were to be discarded. At the Basin Bridge depot in Chennai, pillow covers were being stitched from used bedsheets to tide over shortages.
In a few cases, in Northern Railway, used pillow covers were provided to passengers, the report said. The audit report has recommended that the railways increase the pace of setting up mechanised laundries and prescribe norms for quality standards for washed linen.
It has stated that a mechanism may be put in place to ensure CAG recommends setting up of more mechanized laundries strict compliance to norms of cleaning blankets and pillows as per required periodicity.
The CAG also said that at many storage depots, fresh linen was stored haphazardly and was exposed to dirt and contamination. Proper storage space may be provided for storage of linen in store depots, so that linen can be issued in an organised manner, it recommended.
It has also advocated providing adequate storage space for linen in coaching depots. In Western Railway, new linen was stored in a manner that they were exposed to dirt in storage depots in Mahalakshmi and Sabarmati. At the store in Kharagpur, face towels were kept in a room with broken windows susceptible to damage due to seepage of rainwater.
In some zonal railways, new stock remained unutilised for almost their life span. In North Eastern Railway, the audit said, the stock at the depots had already completed two-to-seven months life from the date of manufacture before it was received at the Gorakhpur depot.
In the South Eastern Railway, bedsheets (life cycle of 12 months) and pillow covers (life cycle of nine months) remained unutilised for seven months and similarly face towels (life cycle of nine months) remained unutilised for five months at the depots.
This indicated that the lot received first were not issued first, the audit said. In case of pillows too, instructions were not followed. Blankets and pillows were not dry cleaned and/or sanitised for long periods before supply to the passengers, the audit said.