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The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has criticised Indian Railways for installation of bio-toilets on trains, citing that majority of them face operation deficiencies including choking, foul smell and inadequate supply of bacterial inoculum. The report indicated that no awareness campaign was conducted by railway zones - except Southern Railway. Moreover, only 36.62 per cent supervisory and 23.21 per cent non-supervisory staff were trained in maintenance of bio-toilets. The ‘bio-toilet’ (using bio-digester technology) is an eco-friendly waste management solution, which reduces solid human waste to bio-gas and water with the help of a bacterial inoculum through biological degradation of human waste. It eliminates the direct discharge of human waste from coach toilets onto railway tracks and platform aprons in stations, and helps avoid manual scavenging while keeping the platform aprons and trains clean. An audit conducted in 30 coaching depots of 15 zonal railways in 2016-17 by CAG indicated that out of 613 trains being handled in these depots, 160 trains did not have any bio-toilets fitted. "In remaining 453 trains with 25,080 bio-toilets, 1,99,689 instances of deficiencies were noticed," the report said. It was in January 2015 that the railway board decided to eliminate the provision of direct discharge toilets in new coaches by the end of 2016-17. However, during 2014-15 to 2016-17, utilization of funds for retrofitment of bio-toilets remained between 34 per cent and 71 per cent.
For the year 2016-17, Minister of Railways had announced that 20,000 bio-toilets were to be inducted through retrofitment. Railway Board fixed an internal target of 50,000 bio-toilets to be inducted through retrofitment. "As against this target, various Zonal Railways could achieve induction of 22,198 bio-toilets through retrofitment. The shortfall of more than 30 per cent was noticed in five Zonal Railways out of 16 Zonal Railways (East Central-67 per cent, North Central-49 per cent, Northern-42 per cent, South Eastern-44 per cent and Western-43 per cent)," the report added.The report also indicated that due to the inadequate progress of retrofitment of bio-toilets in passenger coaches by Zonal Railways, Railway Board decided to place a bulk order for supply, installation and commissioning of approximately 80,000 bio-toilets in in-service coaches. "As against 33,783 bio-toilets which were to be supplied to 16 Zonal Railways up to March 2017, only 14,274 bio-toilets were supplied by the firms. Out of these, 12,016 bio-toilets were fitted in coaches up to March 2017," it said. CAG also highlighted that out of the nine firms, on which orders were placed, seven firms, had complaints pending against them regarding quantity and quality of material supplied during 2015-16 and 2016-17.