As per the country’s top auditor, the sanitation and washing of linen including blankets provided on trains were not carried out as per the established norms to be followed by the railways.
To this effect, in a report tabled in Parliament on Friday, the CAG has suggested the setting up of a mechanism to ensure strict and regular compliance to rules.
The Railway Board has instructed railways to regularly wash linen such as sheets, towels and pillowcases after every single use and dry-cleaned the blankets every two months.
After collecting and analysing data on a total number of blankets in use and those washed during the review period (2012-2013 to 2015-2016) in 33 selected depots of coaches, the CAG found that in 14 selected depots, no blankets had been dry-washed within the review period.
“Various zonal railways had provided periodicity of once every fortnight/month/once in two-three months for washing blankets,” said the CAG report.
The report also stated that linens had been sanitised in only seven out of the selected depots under five zonal railways.
In addition, the report claimed that during 2015-2016, it was found that in 12 coaching depots of eight zonal railways, including Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai, Gwalior, Digboi, Sealdah Station in Kolkata, Lucknow, etc, blankets were washed after an interval of 6-26 months.
In addition, the CAG report found that general stores and depots were storing old, discarded linens along with fresh ones. In some instances, such as at basin Bridge depot in Chennai, old sheets were being recycled and fashioned into pillow cases to cut costs.
In some instances in the Northern Railway, passengers were provided with used pillow covers.
“Blankets and pillows were not dry cleaned and/or sanitised for long periods before supply to the passengers,” the audit said.
The audit report said there was a need for the railways to increase the pace of setting up of mechanised laundries and prescribe norms for quality standards for washed linen.
“A mechanism may be put in place to ensure strict compliance to norms of cleaning blankets and pillows as per required periodicity,” the audit report said, stressing the need for an increase in pace off setting up mechanised laundries by the Indian railways.
Commenting on unhygienic and haphazard conditions of storage in storing depots, the report has advocated the provision of ‘adequate storage space’ in storage depots.
“Proper storage space may be provided for storage of linen in store depots, so that linen can be issued in an organised manner,”
The audit report has also advised the railways to seek regular customer feedback from passengers to further improve passenger satisfaction.