Next time you get down from a train, cabin announcements could be reminding you to take the towel along, just as they now tell you to destroy or take away the Rail Neer water bottles.
The Indian Railways (IR) has decided to replace the reusable towels it gives passengers in the air-conditioned (AC) class with disposable, cotton-rich, ones. The order was issued to all rail zones on June 26.
"These towels will be more environment- friendly and help address the issue of supply of unclean towels. Towel material will be cotton. The move may be extended to other linen like pillows and bedsheets in the coming days," said an official.
The instructions say the towels will have a minimum 50 per cent of cotton and be of 'spunlace non-woven material, with a size of 40 cm x 30 cm’. IR would save on the washing cost of Rs 3.53 per passenger.
At present, it spends Rs 55 for each wash of a bedroll; it charges a passenger Rs 22 on this. Based on the current procurement cost, each bedsheet’s estimated cost would be Rs 132, a towel around Rs 22 and a pillow around Rs 25. Officials believe with larger procurement in place, this is going to come down in the near future.
The notification directed the zonal railways and general managers to ensure cost reduction while implementing the new order in their system. It added the overall cost will be less, based on assessment by Western Railways.
Last July, the railways had faced criticism from the office of the Union comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) over cleanliness and management of linen. "A robust system for procurement, washing and distribution of linen is, therefore, necessary to provide clean, hygienic, well ironed and good quality linen to all passengers travelling in AC classes," the CAG had said.
In 2016, then railways minister Suresh Prabhu had launched personalised disposable bedrolls for travellers, at an additional cost, termed the e-bedroll scheme. However, there were not many takers. The e-bedrolls were of two types – one packed in a non-woven fabric bag consisting of two cotton bedsheets and one pillow at a cost of Rs 140 and the other packed in a non-woven bag, consisting of one blanket, for Rs 110.
The auditor had earlier criticised the railways after finding out that except for seven depots under five zonal railways, linen had not been sanitised in the other 33 depots that it had looked into for a compliance audit.