Water being provided on stations and trains was not even being tested

    In fact, 44% of the water supplies (275 out of total 632) are without a chlorination plant

    Average 3 crore people travel by trains daily and Railway serving them contaminated water

    How much longer will the country have to wait for the supply of unsafe drinking water to come to an end?

    The heavy manipulation in the award of contracts for supply of chlorination plants for past several years

    Delhi High Court asks Indian Railways to stop supply of contaminated water to passengers/employees

    HC ordered that the matter be placed before the Chairman, Railway Board who shall give a report on the quality of water made available to passengers

    New Delhi: Stop giving contaminated water to passengers, the Delhi High Court told the Indian Railways on Monday, 27th November 2017, and questioned its decision to hike fares when it was not providing better services.

    "Hundreds of thousands passenger travel by trains and you are serving them contaminated water. Stop giving contaminated water to passengers. What enhanced services are you providing to increase fares?" a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar asked.

    It directed that the matter be placed before the Chairman, Railway Board who shall give a report on the quality of water made available to passengers.

    Photo caption: Contaminated water supply - Filthy underground tank.

    The report be placed before the Ministry of Railways, the court said and listed the matter for further hearing on February 19 next year. The bench said it wanted that the best and same treatment be given to every citizen.

    The bench said the issue assumes importance and deserved the greatest attention and that it wanted the railways to examine it and take a decision on its own without the court getting into it.

    The court was hearing a plea by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation, which has sought "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 several years".

    Advocates appearing for the NGO said the railways was neither adhering to the standards laid down for drinking water by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) nor following the Indian Railway Medical Manual (IRMM).

    The lawyers said water being provided on stations and trains was not even being tested for the presence of E. Coli bacteria.

    The NGO has contended that while the Indian Railways, which has an independent water supply system all over the country, is able to keep trains running by meeting the requirement of water for washing and cleaning of trains, tracks and platforms, it is "failing to supply safe and wholesome drinking water to millions of railway passengers and its staff who live in the railway colonies".

    It alleged that Indian Railways has "continued to neglect the quality of water supply for so many years" as records which have come to light recently show that water quality has been very unsatisfactory for the past several years.

    The plea alleges that "the water treatment infrastructure for disinfection of water by chlorination has almost completely collapsed and level of contamination in the entire supply network from the source to the top is alarming."

    In 2012-14, Alok Verma, the then Chief Engineer, Northern Railway, initiated a drive on Northern Railway to bring about the much need improvements in the railway water supply, but it was thwarted. The matter reached Delhi High Court in March’14 in the form of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition.

    In drinking water quality the most important thing is the microbial quality:

    The water should be free from the pathogens, which are certain bacteria, virus, or other microorganisms. Contact with or consumption of water infected by these pathogens can cause diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, amoebiasis, cholera, typhoid, botulism, salmonellosis, Hepatitis A etc.

    Cryptosporidiosis and Giardiasis are two of the more recently identified water-borne diseases which have caused epidemics in several countries. Children, the aged and pregnant and nursing women are the population groups that are most susceptible to the waterborne diseases.