Passengers avoid using clogged and unclean toilets in express trains as much as possible.
People travelling in express trains prefer not to use unhygienic toilets unless necessary. Ujwala Mahesh Ghorpade, a passenger who de-boarded Mysuru Express at Krantivira Sangolli Rayana (KSR) Railway Station said, “I have tried not to use the toilet as much as I could while travelling. The sleeper class toilets are extremely bad. Apart from stinking, they are— most of the time— clogged or not flushed properly.”
Washbasins are also not in a good condition, according to the passengers. Rupali Appasaheb Pawar, a passenger sitting in the waiting lounge of KSR Railway Station said, “The sink in Mysuru Express was clogged with a lot of dirty water accumulated in it.” Sometimes lack of water in the toilets is another reason why the toilets remain unclean. Nivedita Jaiswal, a passenger travelling in Udyan Express said that the toilets in her coach had run out of water a few stations before the train could reach its final destination.
Dr. Mini Sangneria, a Gynaecologist at Masina Hospital and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Mumbai said, “It is extremely important to have clean toilets, especially for feminine hygiene. As the genital passages like urethra and vagina are open organs, they are likely to be infected because of open and bad toilets that often lead to urinal tract infections (UTI). Other infections like vaginal infections, recurrent vaginitis, cervicitis, and skin infections like fungal infections and perinium infections (skin of vagina and vulva) can also be caused due to unhygienic toilets.”
Babu Rajendraprasad, supervisor at KSR railway station said, “The trains are thoroughly cleaned once they reach their destinations.” South Western Railways has given contract to Global Agency which provides them with staff to work on railway stations and cleaning the empty rakes of express trains. He added, “Around 15 to 20 staff members clean one train. Every day, the agency equips the cleaning staff with brooms, wipers, masks, a room freshener, and some chemical solution to clean the rake. And the tissues and handwashes are provided by the railways. Rubber gloves and boots are provided once a month.”
The Onboarding Housing Staff (OBHS) who travel in the express trains, according to the guidelines mentioned in its Training Module, are responsible for ensuring that the hygiene of toilets is maintained during the journey. It states “Toilets should be cleaned frequently in the morning, afternoon, evening and night.” However, despite these guidelines’ toilets in most of the express trains are unclean often forcing people to control their bladder.
Dr. Mini Sangneria said, “Holding urine in the bladder to avoid using unhygienic toilets can cause UTI in the form of mild urethritis which sometimes can also harm kidneys. Unhealthy discharge, especially due to unhygienic washrooms can be harmful as there is a chance that the cleared up infection might occur again.”
An OBHS staff member assigned to clean toilets, who refused to reveal his name said, “Even when the water is available, sometimes it’s the people who do not flush properly making it harder for us to keep them clean.”
Nagaraju, supervisor of cleaning staff at KSR railway station said that they had been provided with enough staff and equipment to ensure the trains that leave the station are clean. However, once the train leaves, it is not their responsibility until it comes back.
Dr. Mini Sangneria said, “The railway authority can maintain hygiene of the toilets by having disposable toilet seat covers in all the coaches and adequate amount of water and soap. The number of bathrooms can also be increased to ensure sufficient facilities are available for the passengers to reduce the load on two bathrooms. Even the unclean Indian toilet system includes the probability of infections and hence it is important that these toilets are clean.”