CAG impact: Railways to provide 'washable' blankets in AC coaches

The Indian Railways is reported to be in the process of replacing the present stock of blankets being provided to passengers in long-distance trains with new light-weight designer blankets that are washable.

The move follows a negative report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) of unhygienic blankets provided on rail coaches. The CAG report pulls up Railways for lack of cleanliness in trains as well as railway stations and the quality of food served.

The new blankets, being designed by the National Institute of Fashion Design, are light-weight ones and are washable after every use.

Also, reports said, Railways will henceforth keep temperature inside AC compartment at 24C against the current level of 19C, reducing the need for blankets.

According to reports, the move to do away with blankets would be more cost-effective as it takes Rs55 to clean the bedroll while passengers are charged just Rs22 for it.

"The food sold at railway stations is "unfit for human consumption" and the hygiene standards at railway catering units are below par," CAG stated in its report.

''It was found that in 14 selected depots, under nine zonal railways, no blankets had been dry washed in the period. And except for seven depots under five zonal railways, linens had not been sanitised in the other selected depots,'' the CAG reprt stated.

The report was prepared after inspections at 74 stations and 80 trains, covering the period from 2013 to 2016 and issues of earlier years which could not be reported earlier.

The report also said there were general stores depots which stored fresh linens along with those that were to be discarded. At the Basin Bridge depot in Chennai, pillow covers were being stitched from the used bedsheets to tide over shortages. In a few cases, in the Northern Railway, used pillow covers were provided to the passengers, the report 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," it said.

The CAG also said that at many storage depots, fresh linen was stored haphazardly and was exposed to dirt and contamination. "Proper storage space may be provided for storage of linen in store depots, so that linen can be issued in an organised manner," it recommended.

It has also advocated providing "adequate storage space" for linen in coaching depots.