Railway Board is unwilling to carry out the overhaul of water supply system

    Level of contamination in the entire supply network from the source to the tap is alarming

    Railway is failing to supply safe drinking water to the millions of passengers and its employees

    Records come to light show that water quality has been very unsatisfactory for past many years

    The water treatment infrastructure for disinfection of water by chlorination has almost completely collapsed

    A large and important public authority has continued to neglect the quality of water supply for so many years

    New Delhi : Indian Railway is unique in having an independent water supply system all over the country. An assured supply of large quantities of water is essential for day to day operation of trains involving washing and cleaning of trains, platforms and tracks at stations. While it is able to keep trains running by meeting the requirement of water for the above purposes, it is failing to supply safe, wholesome drinking water to the millions of railway passengers and its staff who live in the railway colonies. Records which have come to light recently show that water quality has been very unsatisfactory for past many years, and the rate of failure of water samples in the tests of water quality is extremely high.

    It is indeed shocking that a large and important public authority like the Indian Railways has continued to neglect the quality of water supply for so many years.The efforts made by the Chief Engineer to bring about improvement in the quality of water over the last two years on one of the Railways (Northern Railway) have revealed the depth of the problems. The water treatment infrastructure for disinfection of water by chlorination has almost completely collapsed while the level of contamination in the entire supply network from the source to the tap is alarming. Further, there are serious deficiencies in the water quality testing and monitoring on the Railway, with the result that despite an extremely high rate of sample failure in tests of water quality, no action is taken to protect the consumers from risks of water-borne diseases in a direct violation of the protocol provided in the Indian Standard Code in this regard.

    Serious irregularities in the award of contracts for the supply of chlorination plants also come to light. In fact, the failure of Railway to provide working chlorination plants for past many years is the most important cause of the poor quality of water. A highly objectionable method has been used to award contracts to a particular manufacturer of chlorination plants. The method revolves around the use of a high-sounding, misleading nomenclature to describe a chlorination plant.

    Further, the technical specifications are made exactly according to the technical specifications of the plants made by this company thereby completely precluding competitive bidding in tenders. In the case of another company, the design and construction of the chlorination plants supplied by it are so seriously flawed that in all probability the plants cannot carry out disinfection of the drinking water supply with any effectiveness.

    Inspection of the plants supplied by two companies has revealed serious irregularities in the operation and maintenance of the plants, which including the supply of the disinfectant solution is in the hands of these companies. There are serious doubts whether chlorination was actually being done or records were being fabricated to give a false picture about chlorination and its efficacy.

    When the continuing neglect and the worsening situation in regard to water quality, and the irregularities and malpractices regarding plants supplied by these companies were brought to the notice of Railway Board and the General Manager of the Northern Railway, the Railway Administration (Then GM/NR) has chosen to remove the Chief Engineer from his post. It is amply evident that Railway Board is unwilling to carry out the overhaul of water supply system that is necessary for improving the quality of water. The most likely outcome of the transfer of the Chief Engineer is that the menace of supply of unsafe drinking water would continue to jeopardize health and well-being of the millions who consume the water daily at the stations and in the railway colonies.

    A writ petition is filed in this regard at Delhi High Court in public interest seeking appropriate and a time-bound action plan by the Railway Board for improvement of the quality of drinking water supply on the entire Indian Railway. The petition further seeks an independent and preferably court-monitored probe into the neglect of the quality of the drinking water supply, and the manipulations in the award of contracts for the supply of chlorination plants for past so many years. The instant case is a glaring example as to how lives of innumerable people are put in danger due to the lacking approach on the part of concerned authorities.

    Chlorination of water before it is fed into the supply network is essential for purification to destroy disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens. Between 24.05.1994 and 26.9.97, Railway Board issued a number of letters to the GMs of all the Indian Railways regarding the unsatisfactory water quality, the high rate of sample failure in tests on the microbial quality of water, and the failure of the Railways to carry out properly chlorination of the drinking water supply. The Board observed in its letter dated 08.02.1995-

    "Attention is invited to Board’s letter of even number dated 24.05.1994, wherein it was pointed out that the quality of water being supplied at stations/ colonies was far from satisfactory and a very large number of samples collected showed unsatisfactory bacteriological results."

    On 13.04.04, Member Engineering, Railway Board sent a letter to all the Railways that drinking water supply is not getting adequate chlorination. The Railways were instructed to provide a new type of chlorination plants that also produces the disinfectant chemical by an electro-chemical process. This was followed with several reminders from Railway Board. Over the next two to three years a large number of these plants were provided all over Indian Railway. However, these plants proved to be unsuccessful.

    The Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its report Number 11 of 2013 (Railways) on 'Cleanliness and Sanitation on Indian Railways' has observed that at many stations on Indian Railway more than 50% samples tested showed unsatisfactory quality of water, while at many stations the sample failure rate was found to be 100% (Para 4.9.7.8). Para 4.10 of the report says-

    "The high rate of unfit water samples was indicative of a deficiency in the remedial measures taken by the Railway Administration."

    Para 4.11 of the report makes following recommendation-

    "Indian Railways to strengthen its monitoring mechanism to ensure strict compliance with its guidelines/instructions for ensuring the provision of safe drinking water."

    On Northern Railway, which is the largest Railway on Indian Railways in terms of the area and population served, a comprehensive action plan for improving water quality was mooted and initiated by Chief Engineer/HQ, Northern Railway, Alok Kumar Verma towards the end of 2012. He carried out extensive inspections all over Northern Railway to study the causes of the poor quality of water. It was found that the entire water supply systems, including the bore-wells, the storage tanks and the distribution network suffered from high levels of contamination due to the various defects in design, construction and maintenance of the various water supply installations. The necessary skilled category staff to carry out chlorination was also not available and supervisors were also found lacking in knowledge regarding water quality.

    On 19.04.2012, Shri Verma prepared a detailed note regarding the neglect and the deterioration in the water supply infrastructure as a result of which the quality of water was seriously compromised. Following extracts from the then CE/HQ/NR Shri Verma’s note emphasize the gravity of the situation on Northern Railway-

    "On Northern Railway, the water supply is suffering from several deep rooted problems which are causing serious underperformance in managing both the quantity and quality of water supplied to the stations, trains, colonies and the various office and service buildings. My estimate is that about 3/4th of the water supplied on Northern Railway is either untreated or poorly treated.-----. There has also been substantial avoidable expenditure and underutilization of capacities. Records show that the state of affairs is not a sudden occurrence; it is a result of problems worsening over the years. It seems the handling of the water supply systems went on slipping down unnoticed, but now there is an urgent need to put the system back on a sound footing before further harm is done. The improvements will bring about financial benefits also." (Para No. 1)

    "In Railway working, punctuality and safety get high importance. It would be no exaggeration to say that the subject of water supply which meets a vital requirement of the passengers, railway employees and other rail users should get some importance at least. The Engineering Deptt officers and staff on the Divisions should gear up and focus their attention so that the deep-rooted problems afflicting the water supply on Northern Railway, which I have tried my best to deal with in this note, can be properly addressed in the shorted time." (Para No. 6)

    Further, it was also found that though in the past fifteen years hundreds of new chlorination plants had been installed for disinfection of the drinking water supply, hardly any plants were in a proper working condition. It was clear that the failure to provide appropriate chlorination plants was, in fact, the most important cause of poor quality of water. Shri Verma issued four circulars between Jan-Mar 2013 regarding appropriate types of plants, their technical specifications and guidelines on proper operation and maintenance of the plants.

    On Indian Railways provision of safe drinking water is the responsibility of Engineering Department, while Medical Department is responsible for monitoring the quality of drinking water. It was also found that though the rate of sample failure in tests for assessing the microbial quality of water was extremely high, the water quality monitoring protocols were so seriously flawed that despite repeated indication of contamination and failure to carry out treatment properly, no remedial actions were being taken by the officials to identify and remove the cause of unsatisfactory quality in accordance with the Indian Standard Code on Drinking Water Quality.

    The Indian Railway Medical Manual (IRMM) also says that the results of the tests of water quality shall be regularly reviewed by the higher officials including the Railway Board, but this was also not being done. Further, it was also found that important routine tests had not been carried out for past several years. For example, the chemical quality of water should be tested once in six months as per Indian Railway Works Manual (IRWM), but the chemical quality of the water taken out from many bore-wells on the Railways has not been tested for as many as ten to twenty years since their installation.

    It was also found that some Divisions were not reporting all samples in which total coliform bacteria is present with the result that the sample failure rate was actually higher than reported by the Divisions. On 16.07.12, the Shri Verma sent a detailed note to the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Northern Railway for removing deficiencies in the water quality monitoring protocols. Finally, after almost a year of internal deliberations by the office of CMD, instructions were issued to the Divisions on 04.09.13 to make necessary changes.

    Circulars covering other subjects on water quality were also issued. In all 18 circulars were issued between June 2012 to March 2013. An Action Plan with specific targets to bring about improvement in the quality of water was also prepared. A seminar was held on each of the five Divisions in between May-June 2013.

    On 10.06.2013 and 27.09.13, the Principal Chief Engineer (PCE) sent letters to the DRMs of all the Divisions of Northern Railway regarding the large-scale failure of chlorination plants, poor progress of implementation of the Action Plan to improve water quality and the need for better monitoring of water quality and to issue health advisories whenever necessary. The following extract from the letter dated 27.09.2013 is reproduced below-

    "In spite of the emphasis placed in the past one and half years, including issues of various circulars on the subject, a seminar on each of the Division, and other initiatives by the headquarters office, the progress of implementation of the action plan has been very unsatisfactory. The subject is even not getting due attention from the officers and supervisors and in general, there is a lack of realization of the gravity of the situation whereby we are failing to meet the obligation to supply safe drinking water to the passengers, residents of railways colonies and other users."

    The item 'Improvement in water supply system of Indian Railways' - which was proposed by the then CE/HQ/NR Alok Kumar Verma was discussed by the Works Standard Committee on 12th and 13th September 2013 and the Committee recommended that Shri Verma should prepare a draft for revision to the relevant chapters of the IRWM on the basis of the circulars which have been issued by him on Northern Railway for adoption over the whole Indian Railway.

    In the meanwhile, on 11.04.13, Railway Board had issued instructions to all the Indian Railways to provide 'Programmable Logic Controller Based Automatic Bacteriological Treatment Plants' at all bore-wells on the Railways. Board’s order also said that operation and maintenance should also be given to the company that supplies the plant. Shri Verma addressed a letter to Board on 12.11.13, explaining that experience on Northern Railway showed that plants with such complex automation are not suitable. He also said that it was not desirable to entrust the entire job of chlorination to one contractor and requested Board to review its instructions. He also suggested that Board may consider for adoption over the Indian Railways the policy and guidelines which Northern Railway had prepared regarding acquisition, operation and maintenance of chlorination plants.

    In November 2013, Shri Verma sent officials from his office to carry out an inspection at major stations where chlorination had been outsourced to contractors. The inspection showed the very unsatisfactory condition of the chlorination plants, several plants were found under complete breakdown and automation features were found inoperative in all the plants that were inspected. Serious irregularities in operation and maintenance of the plants were also revealed. Basic records such as daily log books were not being maintained and there was strong evidence that records were being manipulated to falsely show that the plants were carrying out chlorination properly with hardly any breakdowns or malfunctioning of the plants.

    Examination of records also indicated that the plants had been put in operation without properly carrying out the necessary initial validation tests to check the soundness of the design and performance capabilities of the plants. The Divisions were ordered to immediately place the senior supervisor in charge of water supply at Delhi and Jammu Tawi where irregularities were found to be most serious under suspension.

    While examining the records of the inspection, it was also found that the technical specifications had been prepared to fit the specifications of the plants manufactured/supplied by a particular company with the result that all the contracts on Firozpur Division were awarded to one company - M/s. Mercury (International) Pvt. Ltd, Kanpur and all contracts on Delhi Division were awarded to M/s. Deioners Speciality Chemicals (P) Ltd.

    It was also discovered that one of the above companies, M/s Mercury (International) Pvt. Ltd., had supplied these chlorination plants to Firozpur Division as 'Programmable Logic Controller Based Automatic Bacteriological Treatment Plants.' It was found that the technical specifications which were given by the Division in the tender document were exactly the same technical specifications that were given by M/s Mercury (International) Pvt. Ltd. in its literature for marketing of the 'Programmable Logic Controller Based Automatic Bacteriological Treatment Plants' supplied by the company. Further, in each of the tenders, it was specifically mentioned that offer of any plant, not that does not meet the technical specification given in the tender papers shall not be considered.

    In this objectionable manner, Firozpur Division had awarded 7 contracts for the supply of a total of about 70 plants to M/s Mercury (International) Pvt. Ltd. Railway Board in its above-referred directions to provide a specific type of chlorination plant had also used the same term 'Bacteriological Treatment Plant'. CE/HQ Shri Verma also found that the term 'Bacteriological Treatment Plant' did not exist in any vocabulary or lexicon of water treatment or supply. On 09.01.2014, he wrote to Railway Board regarding the undue benefit that could accrue to M/s Mercury (International) Pvt. Ltd if Board’s instructions to all the Railways to provide 'Programmable Logic Controller Based Automatic Bacteriological Treatment Plants' were not reviewed. Following extracts from the letter is reproduced below-

    "The main problem in the above directives of Railway Board lies in the use of the term 'Bacteriological Treatment Plant'. This term does not exist in the vocabulary of water treatment and supply. It is also a very vague and confusing term with one possible interpretation that it could be some sort of a sewage treatment plant that uses bacteria to kill harmful microbes. M/s Mercury seems to have coined this term and the company uses it extensively in the marketing of a chlorination plant manufactured/supplied by it. The full name used by the company is 'Programmable Logic Controller Based Automatic Bacteriological Treatment Plant', which is also the name used in the Board’s above letter to describe the plant that the letter says should be provided by all Railways." (Para 4 of the letter)

    "On Northern Railway in past 15 years, a large number of tenders were floated for awarding contracts for installation of the so-called 'Bacteriological Treatment Plant'. In all these tenders the technical specifications were blatantly tailor-made to fit the specifications of the plants manufactured/supplied by this company. Further, in each of the tenders, it was specifically mentioned that- 'The offer for any alternate system not asked for as per technical specification enclosed shall not be considered.' The result was that all the contracts went to this company." (Para 5 of the letter)

    "-------- Board’s above directions to the Railways to provide 'Programmable Logic Controller Based Automatic Bacteriological Treatment Plants' would most likely result in repetition of the malpractices described above in this letter, resulting in still greater financial losses and supply of still more unsafe drinking water to the passengers and residents of Railway colonies." (Para 9 of the letter)

    Shri Verma also apprised Railway Board in his above letter that Delhi Division had also procured chlorination plants with a different type of automation from M/s Deioners Speciality Chemicals (P) Ltd. through a number of contracts. These contracts were also awarded by preparing technical specifications suiting one particular company i.e M/s Deioners Speciality Chemicals (P) Ltd. He said-

    "As in the case of an award of the above contracts to M/s Mercury International Pvt. Ltd, in the tenders for the contracts for the ORP-based chlorination plants by Delhi Division, the technical specifications also seem to have been tailor-made in accordance with the technical specifications of the plants manufactured by M/s Deioners. This company has also supplied a large number of water softening plants and filtration plants on Delhi Division using the same modus operandi.----------" (Para 6 viii of the letter)

    Shri Verma also found that M/s Mercury (International) Pvt. Ltd. had supplied the same so-called 'Bacteriological Treatment Plant' to several other Railways also beside the Northern Railway over the last 15 years. He sent another reminder to Railway Board on 06.02.14 to take an early decision in the matter.

    On 13.12.13 a meeting was held at the Headquarter office of Northern Railway and instructions were issued to the Divisions to get all the plants repaired and tested by running necessary validation tests, to fix up responsibility on the railway officials responsible for the failures and the irregularities and impose penalties and make recoveries for the failures of the contractor as per the terms of contract. That despite another meeting which was also chaired by the PCE/NR on 28.01.14 like the first meeting of 13.12.13 and several reminders dated 29.11.13, 23.12.13, 02.01.14 and 20.01.14 from the CE/HQ both the Divisions failed to take prompt action. Following relevant extracts from the minutes of the above meeting which was held on 28.01.14 are reproduced below-

    "In the previous meeting, PCE had cautioned the Divisions that the irregularities that came to notice during the inspection of the chlorination plants by the HQ unit in November’13 on both DLI and FZR Divisions are extremely serious, and the concerned SrDEN/DENs must carefully deal with the matter with due urgency. -------------. However, it is seen that progress in taking corrective actions has been very unsatisfactory. -------" (Para 1 of the minutes)

    "CE/HQ mentioned that the condition of the plants was found very unsatisfactory with a number of plants under complete breakdown, particularly at DLI and JAT. Besides the high failure rate, major deficiencies in the plants that have a direct bearing on the efficacy of chlorination by the plants were also noted during the inspection." (Para 3 of the minutes)

    "Action should be immediately taken against the railway officials and the contractors who are responsible for the impairment of chlorination of the drinking water supply because of the poor condition of the plants and other irregularities." (Para 5.2 of the minutes)

    The meeting concluded with directions to the SrDEN/DENs that they submit a detailed report on the condition of each plant along with all necessary data regarding validation of the plant to the Headquarter office by 05.03,14. It was also mentioned that the  next review meeting will be held in the 2nd week of March 2014.

    In the olden days when sufficient manpower was at disposal of Railway, chlorination of water by manual application of the disinfectant solution in the water storage tanks was practiced. With the Railway unable to provide working chlorination plants and the conditions deteriorating the CE/HQ addressed letters to the Divisions on 12.12.13 and 21.01.2014 to at least carry out some chlorination by the manual method. The CE/HQ pointed out that 'un-chlorinated water without any treatment/ purification is being supplied for drinking water supply at many stations where working chlorine dosing plants are not available.'

    He said that on 3 divisions - Ambala, Lucknow and Moradabad - there are no working chlorination plants and on the remaining two Divisions - Delhi and Firozpur - where chlorination has been outsourced to contractors, the condition of these plants has been found to be very unsatisfactory. He emphasized the need to reduce contamination of water and to remove at the earliest the deficiencies in the water quality monitoring protocol so that the users can be warned in case of unsatisfactory quality of water.

    On 31.10.13, the CE/HQ/NR Shri Verma prepared a detailed note to apprise the General Manger about the crisis facing quality of water supply and the failure of the Divisions to achieve progress in implementing the Action Plan. He proposes that improvement of water quality be made a mission of the organization for the next 2 to 3 years so that the underlying causes can be fully addressed by a concerted effort of all the concerned Departments. The PCE did not forward the note to GM and returned the file to the CE/HQ on 19.12.13 after keeping the file for almost 2 months.

    He returned the file to the PCE pointing out that after the findings of gross irregularities in the awarding of contracts for the supply of chlorination plants and chlorination through contracts on Delhi and Firozpur Divisions, it became even more necessary to apprise GM about the entire situation and seek his intervention for improving water quality. However, the PCE again declined to send the file. The CE/HQ again requested the PCE that the GM be apprised of the situation. He wrote-

    "At the cost of sounding melodramatic, I would say only God knows how many have lost their lives by consuming unhygienic and contaminated untreated water for the past so many years all over Northern Railway --------------------. The neglect of water quality by Railway officials on such a large scale is, to say the least, very shocking. I have no hesitation in saying that, it would be a criminal neglect of duty on the part of Northern Railway as an organization to allow the status quo to continue ---."

    The PCE finally agreed to a draft letter that the GM shall be requested to approve for sending to the DRMs of all the Divisions about the alarming situation in regard to water quality. A copy of the file noting between 31.10.13 and 20.01.14 and the said draft letter to the DRMs is in possession of ‘Railway Samachar’.

    On 12.02.2014, M/s Deioners Speciality Chemicals (P) Ltd. sent a legal notice to the CE/HQ/NRShri Verma threatening claim of Rs 50 lakhs for defaming the company and prosecuting him for criminal conduct. The allegations of defamation were made by the contractor based on an internal communication of Northern Railway, namely the letter dated 20.01.14 which contained the agenda for the meeting which was held on 28.01.14.

    The CE/HQ/NR Shri Verma immediately apprised the GM regarding the legal notice through his letter dated 14.02.14. That gross irregularities and malpractices had been noted in the work of chlorination by the contractor on Delhi Division in the inspection by the Headquarter officials in November 2013. He also emphasized that the plants supplied by the company have such serious design flaws that the plants seen unsuitable for chlorination of a drinking water supply and that though more than two months had passed since the inspection, the company had failed to put the plant in a proper working condition.

    Despite repeated reminders the Division had failed to send a report on validation tests to ascertain whether the plants supplied by M/s Deioners Speciality Chemicals Pvt Ltd. were suitable for carrying out chlorination of the drinking water supply. The legal notice of the contractor along with the reply of the CE/HQ dated 14.02.2014 was forwarded to the Legal Department vide his letter dated 20.02.14, which is addressed to Secretary/PCE, the Law Officer (DyGM/Law) recommended that administrative action should be taken promptly to deal with the issues raised by the CE/HQ in his above letter of 14.02.2014 to the General Manager.

    The Law Officer further said that the issues raised by the CE/HQ are of serious concern and should be brought to the notice of the GM. That along with his above letter dated 14.02.14, the CE/HQ Shri Verma also sent a compilation of the results of the results of water quality on samples of water during the latest 6 months period from July 2013 to December 2013 based on the reports of the Medical Department to draw attention of the GM to the alarming rate of failure of samples in the quality tests.

    The Indian standard on drinking water specification (IS 10500:2012) issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards stipulates that total coliform bacteria should not be detectable in any 10 ml sample of drinking water (Prior to the 2012 revision of the code, total coliform bacteria was permissible in up to 5% of the total number of samples tested in a year, but now this relaxation has been removed). The compilation shows that the sample failure rate on all the Divisions of Northern Railway is extremely high, with 100% samples showing the presence of coliform bacteria in each of the above 6 months on Lucknow Division. The Division-wise results are as under:

    Ambala Division: The number of unsatisfactory samples as percentage of the total number of samples tested in the month ranged from 59% in Sept’13 to 94% in Oct’13.

    Lucknow Division: All the samples showed the presence of coliform bacteria in each month i.e 100% unsatisfactory samples.

    Moradabad, Delhi, and Firozpur Divisions do not even report results as per the IS Code, yet the results as they are reported to indicate the very unsatisfactory quality of water.

    Moradabad Division reports the presence of bacteria only if the count is more than 10, yet the sample failure ranged from 37% in Oct’13 to 59% in Aug’13.

    Delhi Division reports the presence of bacteria only if the count is more than 20, yet the sample failure ranged from 09% in Sept’13 to 37% in July’13.

    Firozpur Division reports the presence of bacteria only if the count is very high, yet the sample failure ranged from 17% in Nov’13 to 34% in Sept’13.

    After keeping the file which contained the above draft for letter to the DRMs regarding the alarming condition of water quality with him for one more month, the PCE ultimately did not send the file to the GM, and instead on 21.02.14 he wrote a letter to the DRMs under his own signature just saying that the GM has desired that DRMs should daily monitor chlorination of water supply. On 25.02.14, the CE/HQ returned the file to the PCE and said that daily monitoring of chlorination alone is not likely to bring about any improvement in water quality unless changes are brought about to eliminate the underlying causes of the alarming condition of water quality. He concluded-

    "How long can we go on supplying contaminated and untreated water which endangers public health? If we continue to fail to improve water quality, it would be advisable that we announce at the stations, other service buildings and the colonies that the supply water is not fit for drinking."

    The said matter came in light of media also and they carried stories on the quality of drinking water supply in Northern Railways, and the legal notice by the M/s Deioners Speciality Chemicals Pvt. Ltd. Instead of taking action for the improvement of quality of water, the authorities chose to get out of this issue by transferring the CE/HQ Shri Verma with locking his chamber to North East Frontier Railway vide its order dated 26.02.2014. On the very next day, he was spared to carry out the transfer.

    Delhi and Firozpur Divisions had been instructed in the meeting held on 28.01.14 to send report on action taken by them to deal with the irregularities and malpractices in regard to award of contracts and operation and maintenance of the chlorination plants, along with reports of validation tests regarding the efficacy of the plants by 05.03.14 and a meeting to discuss the Divisions reports was due to be held in the 2nd week of March’14, as clearly recorded in Para No. 7 to 10 of the above minutes of the meeting. The reply from Board to the references made by Shri Verma regarding Board’s instructions to provide 'Programmable Logic Controller Based Automatic Bacteriological Treatment Plants' was also awaited.

    With the CE/HQ out of the way, the possibility that the data and records will be manipulated by the erring Divisional officers to let go scot-free the wrongdoers and protect themselves also from being held accountable for the irregularities cannot be ruled out. But, it would be at a great cost to prospects of improving the quality of drinking water supply on the Railway. The outcome of the transfer will be that the menace of supply of unsafe drinking water quality would continue to jeopardize health and well-being of the millions who consume the water daily at the stations and in the colonies.

    One of the important reasons why the Railway could forsake its responsibility to supply safe drinking water for so many years is that both the agency treating and supplying water and the agency carrying out water quality monitoring are under the same chief executive namely the GM. In other public water supplies in India, except a few other small establishments, they are under different ministries.

    In fact, in most countries across the world there is an independent agency (like the Environment Protection Agency in the USA and its counterparts in most of Europe) which has the authority to set up legally binding rules regarding treatment and monitoring of water quality, monitor their compliance and also have the authority to impose fines if breach of rules is observed.  On the Indian Railways while the Engineering Department failed to carry out proper treatment of water the Medical Department looked the other way because of both works under the control of the GMs and Railway Board.

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