Seeking review of the proposed legislation to prevent manual scavenging and open discharge on tracks, railways have expressed its inability to construct community latrines on rail land.
The proposed amendments to the Prohibition of Empowerment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, moved by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry aims to entrust the responsibility on the national transporter to construct adequate number of community latrines so as to eliminate the practice of open defecation along the tracks.
However, Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal in a letter to the Law Ministry, has pointed out that construction of latrines along the tracks is not in the domain of railways as it is the responsibility of civic authorities to carry out such a task.
“Railways function in accordance with the Railways Act, 1989, and it is not within its domain to construct community sanitary latrines which is the lookout of the concerned municipalities or panchayats,” Mittal stated in the letter.
“Railways have the responsibility for public carriage of passengers or goods and have the mandate to execute necessary works for the purpose of operating and maintaining a railway only,” he said.
The Central Monitoring Committee under Cabinet Secretary has reviewed the implementation of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Constitution of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993 on May 17.
While reviewing the progress made by railways with regard to fitments of bio-toilets in coaches for eliminating open discharge on tracks, the provisions connected with railways under draft cabinet note mooted by Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry on amendments to Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill 2012 also came up for discussion.
In his letter, Mittal clearly stated that railway land along the track is required for rail operation and not for construction of community latrines.
Construction of community latrines on railway land for outsiders will increase trespass and would impinge upon safety of trains and travelling public due to increased vulnerability of track crossing by outsiders, said the letter.
“Appreciating the railways point of view, the Cabinet Secretary has directed me to request you to hold an urgent meeting with the concerned ministries – Railways, HUPA, Urban Development, Rural Water Supply, Social Justice and Empowerment and the Panchayati Raj to resolve the issues and take appropriate measures in amending the Bill,” he said.
The draft cabinet note of Social Justice and Empowerment is already at the stage of final approval.