Railways outsourcing cleanliness to ragpickers

Railways outsourcing cleanliness to ragpickers

New Delhi: Railways is finding meaningful ways to engage ragpickers across the country. They are being pressed into service to clean the tracks at stations and become daily wagers.

All divisional railway managers (DRM) have been told to hire ragpickers through contractors to clean the railway lines as part of cleanliness drive, Ramesh Chandra, chairman Railway Board, said.

“While we have initiated steps to ensure cleanliness at railway stations, waiting halls and passenger trains, the cleanliness drive has been extended on the tracks also," he said.

Railway tracks littered with dirt is a common sight. However, with the outsourcing of the cleaning job to private contractors, tracks are expected to be litter-free.

Northern Railway DRM Rakesh Saxena said, “We have hired contractors to do the cleaning job. It is the contractors who have employed ragpickers to pick up litters including papers, plastic bottles, rags, papers, tetra packs and other materials lying on the tracks within 50 metres of both ends of the platforms. Ragpicking has to be carried out throughout the day."

“Currently there are nine stations in Delhi where ragpickers are being employed to clean the tracks and we would cover about 40 stations in and around Delhi in a phased manner," said Saxena.

Besides ragpickers, railways has also introduced mechanised cleaning system at 26 major stations in the country. Here, cleanings of platforms and trains are carried out with the help of machines.

“The mechanised cleaning system would be extended to 80 stations in the next phase," said Chandra.

Shri Prakash, general manager of the Northern Railway, said, “an elaborate exercise has been undertaken to ensure cleanliness. As a first step, we are ensuring that each passenger train has to be attended at certain identified stations where the halt is for more than 10 minutes. Specialised agencies have been hired to clean the train, toilets and platforms besides re-fill water supply system in trains."

Prakash said ragpickers are to pick up litters six times a day from the tracks. Besides Delhi, similar exercise is being carried out in other stations including Dehradun, Haridwar, Moradabad, and Jalandhar. It would be extended to almost all stations soon, he added.

There are about 27,000 slums on railway land in Delhi and out of these, about 8,000 are within 15 metres from the tracks. This has posed a serious threat to railway’s safety and the authorities are trying to relocate the slums.