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Towards cockroach-free coaches

Staff Reporter
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B. Selvam
B. Selvam

For regular train passengers, rats, cockroaches and other pests are hardly a novel sight. From the general coaches to the first class ones, the pest menace is something those travelling by train have resigned themselves to. But, if B. Selvam has his way, this trouble may soon be a thing of the past.

The senior section engineer in the Basin Bridge train care centre, a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Shram Vir award for the year 2012, has developed a method to remove pests hidden in the crevices of coaches. The presence of pests in these spots in coaches has long been the bane of maintenance staff. Though the railways has tried various options such as fumigation to get rid of them, it has not really succeeded. “This is because it is very difficult to dislodge the pests that have settled in small crevices,” said a senior railway official.

Till 2012, the railways used to spray medicines inside coaches. But these would never seep into the crevices. At this juncture, Mr. Selvam designed a fumigation chamber after a thorough study. He inspected the sidewalls, spaces between the two floors and air conditioner ducts.

“He did this with the help of a pencil camera attached to a laptop,” said Southern Railway’s chief mechanical engineer, S.K. Sood.

He then fitted 48 pipes in the coach including 12 in the side walls, 12 in the gap between the two floors, and 12 in the other crevices, including the air conditioner ducts. This is after the coach was placed inside a fumigation chamber.

“After this, chemicals, including methyl bromide, are sprayed into the compartment through the pipes from outside. They enter the sidewalls and crevices in the coach and completely remove the pests. The coach is covered with a tarpaulin to prevent the pesticides from coming out,” said Mr. Sood.

The fumigation process for each coach takes two days and the chamber can accommodate three of them at a time. “The first class air-conditioner coaches and pantry cars undergo fumigation once in three months. The process is conducted in rest of the coaches as and when complaints arise,” he said. Rakesh Mishra, general manager of the southern railways, who appreciated Mr. Selvam’s work, said that the number of complaints pertaining to bed bugs and pests in coaches had come down.

Mr. Selvam joined the railways in 1985. He had earlier made a widely-praised sliding door arrangement for easy entry and exit of passengers, particularly in toilets.

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