The Western Railway has taken an initiative to appoint ‘Agents of Change’ (CA) to create awareness among commuters about maintaining cleanliness at railway stations. Commuters, nonetheless, are sceptical about the success of this endeavour and they are worried that it might end up becoming an initiative like the BMC’s clean-up marshal campaign which was severely criticised by Mumbaikars for promoting corruption. According to the passengers, the Western Railway’s Agents of Change project looks good at least on paper but it will have to be effectively implemented by the railways.
Asif Zakaria, Congress corporator said, “We must appreciate the initiative taken by the Western Railway for creating awareness about maintaining cleanliness at the railway stations. BMC has already deployed clean-up marshals for maintaining hygiene and cleanliness in the city. Clean-up marshal campaign has not failed but some people are trying to malign it. It is going on quite a successful note. Such initiative will help to avoid spitting and littering in the railway premises.”
The project was launched by the Western Railways on August 15. It is being implemented in eight stations across the city including Churchgate, Mumbai Central, Dadar, Bandra Terminus, Andheri, Borivali, Vasai Road and Virar. Officials from the Western Railway’s commercial department are being assigned the responsibility of Agents of Change as they will ensure that cleanliness is being maintained at the station premises and toilets. Earlier the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had received severe flak from the commuters for appointing clean-up marshals for keeping the city clean but they were more concerned about making quick bucks by extorting money from the commuters.
Shiv Sena corporator Shahida Haroon Khan said, “If the Western Railways will take precautions, cleanliness will be maintained. It will be better if the Railway authorities take strict action against defaulters who spit and make surroundings unhygienic. BMC is already running clean-up marshal campaign which was successful but some self-centric people are trying to divert the attention of the public by spreading rumours.”
She further stated, “Looking at the condition of the railway toilets, Agent of Change must first maintain hygiene and later they can impose fine on defaulters. We welcome the initiative taken by the Western railway.”
Often clean-up marshals used to harass commuters if they fail to pay fine. Clean-up marshals were deployed to instill discipline and create awareness among people about maintaining cleanliness. However, they transformed this initiative into a money minting exercise by penalising commuters for minor offences. They often wait for the commuters to throw waste paper near railway stations and try to extract fines from them. Marshals target newcomers at the railway stations and bus stops.
Prasad Gokhale, a Railway employee said, “It will be a good initiative to create awareness about maintaining hygiene and cleanliness in the public places especially on the railway stations. At some places, the railway toilets are given on the contract basis for the maintenance. Lakhs of passengers commute on the suburban railways on the daily basis but they should not shirk their responsibilities.”
“It is necessary to maintain hygiene. According to me, the railways should sustain this campaign for 3 to 6 months. Initially, for a few days, they should create awareness among passengers about cleanliness and later on, impose fine to deter them from littering railway stations,” he added.
Conmen have disguised themselves as clean-up marshals to extract money from vegetable vendors in the city. Last year, a fake clean-up marshal was arrested from Ghatkopar for allegedly looting a man with Rs 11,000. According to rules, clean-up marshals must impose a fine of Rs 200 if a person is found littering. Of the entire amount collected, 50 per cent goes to the civic body while other half goes to the agency which hires these marshals.
Dr. Avinash Ghatnekar a Mulund resident said, “The initiative taken by the Western Railway is very good but it requires some modification. Firstly, we need to understand the motive behind appointing Agents of Change. It is necessary to ensure cleanliness of the railway stations when these officials achieve a target. There is a need to train these officials instead of hiring them randomly.”
Thus, Western Railway will have to ensure that ‘Agents of Change’ do their task amicably without indulging in corruption. They will have to effectively monitor the work of these officials to ensure that they perform their job effectively without harassing and cheating commuters. Railways are expecting that Agents of Change might act as a deterrent to prevent the entry of unauthorised passengers and keep an eye on illegal vendors at the stations. However, commuters too should cooperate with railways to maintain cleanliness at the stations. They should stop throwing waste on the railway stations and dispose them in the garbage bins.