Now you can get a condom and a sanitary pad on the move, whenever you are planning to take a trip through any of the 8500 railway stations in India.

In a first, the Indian railways on Saturday approved a new toilet policy where use of such toilets, low-cost sanitary pads and condoms will be available at both inside and outside of the railway stations not only for the passengers but also for the people living in its vicinity.

How will this policy work?

“Each facility will have a small kiosk to sell low-cost sanitary pads for women along with the provision of an incinerator, and condoms for men” the policy stated.

The policy is also looking at using the railway premises to build separate toilets for men, women and disabled not only for the passengers travelling but also the people living in the nearby areas for free of cost. It comes with the provision of both Indian and western style commodes in them.

“In order to address these issues, the railways is utilizing the station premises to set up facilities having separate toilets for men and women which will be utilized to build awareness for best practices of menstrual hygiene and usage of contraceptives as proposed”, the policy stated.

As per the policy, each station would be having two such facilities. One outside the station so that the people living in nearby areas can make use of them while having the other inside the station to cater to the needs of the passengers travelling.

Separate toilets are being put in place for women, men and disabled also

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Funding for this program

The funds for installing this facility at all the 8500 stations across India would be met through the Corporate Social Responsibility wing of the Indian Railways from different corporates.

Maintenance of these facilities hold the utmost importance as facilities for providing toilets are already available in most railway stations but people do not prefer to use them because of the lack of maintenance.

While ‘pay and use’ toilet facilities are still available in many railway stations, despite their regular maintenance the demand for these are significantly less as people do not prefer to pay a fixed sum to avail them.

The maintenance for this would also be funded through the CSR as well as advertisements, while three persons- two sweepers and one supervisor will be engaged with a maintenance contract.

This move addresses the problems of Hygiene

Interestingly, half of the households in India have phones but no toilets. Only 46.9% of the 246.6 million households have lavatories while 49.8% defecate in the open.

This comes as a welcome move considering people living near the railway stations constitute a large amount of the 49.8% population who defecate in the open.

Defecating in the open has been a major problem which has not found a rock solid solution. Especially near railway tracks, we see people defecating in the open and urinating in the station premises which make the surroundings unhygienic and have contributed to health-related problems for people living in nearby places.

Also, this goes a long way in promoting the Swachh Bharat and the Clean India mission which has been the vision of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.

The people of our country are entitled to the ‘basic right of hygiene’ and this scheme addresses it to a certain extent. People who are homeless and displaced tend to find shelter in railway stations and this move surely provides them with much-needed relief.

Railway stations are already offering free luxury facilities such as Wi-Fi in certain stations and we are left wondering when we see basic facilities such as clean toilets being ignored.

An Indian child defecates in an open near a railway track on International Toilet Day in New Delhi on November 19, 2015. About 1.1 billion people around the world defecate in the open because they do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. / AFP / SAJJAD HUSSAIN

Is this a step towards a progressive India?

When the Information and Broadcasting ministry banned the advertisement of condoms on televisions during 6 am to 10 pm last December, experts called it a move poised to undo decades of progression on sexual and reproductive health. But this new policy does make us think otherwise.

Talking about condoms and sanitary pads has always been a ‘taboo’ in the Indian society. With only 5.6 percent of men using condoms and only 12 percent of women using sanitary pads during menstruation, a move such as this was waiting to come.

The government through these steps is building best practices for menstrual hygiene and the usage of contraceptives as a way for safe sex among people who have little to less knowledge about these issues.

Rest assured, this is a great move being put into place by the Indian Railways and only time will tell whether this plan becomes successful or not. But on paper, this step is seen as a path-breaking move towards social change.

Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: Times of India, Economic Times, Hindustan Times

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