Bio-toilets in trains are either unavailable, non-functional or misused: CAG report

The audit team identified 199,689 cases of deficiencies or complaints about bio-toilets

By Banjot Kaur
Last Updated: Friday 22 December 2017

The highest number of complaints were regarding choking of bio-toilets, followed by foul smell and non-functionality. Credit: Wikimedia CommonsThe ambitious project of Indian Railways to do away with the existing system of toilets in trains and replace them with bio-toilets has hit a roadblock. According to a report tabled by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in parliament today (December 20), there was  up to 67 per cent shortfall in construction of bio-toilets in various zones of the railways. The total target for retrofitting bio-toilets was 70,000 for 2016-2017. However, only 22, 198 bio-toilets could be retrofitted. Utilisation of funds allotted for retrofitting varied between 34 per cent and 71 per cent from 2014-15 to 2016-17.

A core group of the Railway Board recommended the usage of bio-toilets in 2009, which are environment-friendly. The board, after doing feasibility studies, decided to adopt the 'bio-digester technology', considering it an eco-friendly waste management solution that reduces solid human waste to bio-gas and water with the help of a bacterial 'inoculum'. It eliminates direct discharge of human waste from coach toilets onto railway tracks and platform aprons.

Also Read: Bio-toilets in trains not effective; they are no better than septic tanks: IIT Madras

Besides missing the target on availability of bio–toilets, the CAG report has also highlighted the issues with the quality of bio-toilets available on trains. The audit team identified 199, 689 cases of deficiencies or complaints. Altogether 613 trains were audited from select coaching depots to check the quality of bio-toilets. "160 trains did not have any bio-toilets fitted. In remaining 453 trains having over 25, 000 bio-toilets, as many as 199,689 instances of deficiencies / complaints were noticed," the CAG report states. The highest number of complaints, 102, 792 were regarding choking of such toilets. This was followed by foul smell, non-functionality of bio-toilets, non-availability of dustbins, non-availability of mugs and other complaints like ball valve failure.

Type of defect/problem                                                         Number of instances
Choking                                                                                      102,792
Foul smell                                                                                   16,375
Non-Functional                                                                        11,462
Non-availability of dustbins                                                    21,181
Non-availability of mugs                                                         22,899
Others like ball valve failure, wire ropes etc.                       24,980
Total                                                                                            199,689

“The choking problem was due to misuse of bio-toilets by the passengers. Stainless steel dustbins in bio-toilets were prone to theft,” the CAG report quotes a statement of the Ministry of Mailways made during a July 2017 conference. However, when it comes to undertaking awareness initiatives for passengers regarding the use of bio-toilets, the railways failed to do its bit. The report states, “None of the Zonal Railway except Southern Railway conducted any specific Passenger Awareness Drive to educate the public by distributing pamphlets, making announcements or arranging display on display boards/LED screens”.

The CAG report also highlights the lack of railways staff trained in maintenance of bio-toilets. “Only 36.62 per cent supervisory and 23.21 percent non-supervisory staff were trained in maintenance of bio-toilets since May 2013 when the orders for imparting training were issued,” the report underlines.

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