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Southern Railway decides to suspend onboard housekeeping services on 86 long-distance trains

The Southern Railway headquarters in Chennai. File

The Southern Railway headquarters in Chennai. File   | Photo Credit: Jothi Ramalingam

With old dues pending and fresh bills mounting, Southern Railway has sent an SOS to the Ministry of Railways seeking funds.

With no sign of funds coming in from the Railway Ministry despite an SOS, Southern Railway has decided to suspend onboard housekeeping services (OBHS) on 86 long-distance trains, mostly originating from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, with effect from September 1.

The step, which comes amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachch Bharat mission, follows acute paucity of funds to pay dues to OBHS contractors.

Contracts to end

Southern Railway is planning to withdraw contracts for linen supply, pest control and bio-toilet maintenance on these trains.

Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer Shubranshu has written to senior officials in Chennai, Madurai, Palghat, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchi and Salem Divisions asking them to issue notices to contractors to suspend OBHS operations.

24 expresses spared

However, out of the 110 long-distance trains, OBHS will be retained on 24 trains, including Tamil Nadu Express, Grand Trunk Express, Kerala Express, Navajeevan Express.

“A conscious decision has been taken to keep operation of OBHS contract in abeyance...estimation of the money saved due to this exercise should be sent to Headquarters by 22/08/2019 after which further curtailment of services such as Annual Maintenance and Operation Contract (AMOC) of bio-toilets, pest control and even linen will be considered,” Mr. Shubranshu said.

Bills mounting

With old dues pending and fresh bills mounting, Southern Railway saw the trouble coming and sent an SOS to the Ministry of Railways on July 5, 2019 pointing to the shortage of funds. It said adequate fund allocation was urgently required not only to run OBHS on 110 long distance trains originating from the zone but to introduce the service on 37 trains that qualified for it as per Railway Board norms.

A month later, General Manager Rahul Jain sent a SOS reiterating the urgent requirement of funds for essential passenger amenities. Besides ₹22 crore due to contractors, he said fresh bills to the tune of ₹40 crore were ready for submission. “This lack of funds has caused serious distress to the contractors as they are unable to pay their staff and to procure consumables. There is a strong likelihood that work may cease...it is requested that urgent provision of funds may please be made for these essential passenger amenity activities,” he said.

Major setback

Asked for his comments on the issue, a senior railway official said there was no word from the Railway Board on funds and hence there was no choice but to run trains without housekeeping. “If the situation continues, we will soon withdraw linen, pest control services, bio-toilet maintenance services...yes it’s going to be tough to handle passenger complaints on dirty coaches and stinking toilets. This is a major setback to the ongoing Swachch Bharat mission on Indian Railways,” the official who preferred not to be quoted said.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 3:18:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/southern-railway-decides-to-suspend-onboard-housekeeping-services-on-86-long-distance-trains/article29215461.ece

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