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Inside a mechanised laundry: How Indian Railways aims to provide clean linen to passengers

Fri August 11 2017, 5:57 pm
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    Indian Railways has recently been slammed by the CAG for the cleanliness and hygiene standards of linen and blankets that it provides to passengers. Railways has said that the complaints that it receives with regards to linen pertain to hand-washed ones in most cases. The CAG has emphasised the need to speeden up the process of setting up mechanised laundries across the railway network. According to Indian Railways, around 55% of its linen is washed in mechanised laundries.

    Financial Express Online decided to visit one such mechanised laundry that washes linen for the Delhi division of the Indian Railways. We take a detailed look at the process:

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    Launderaids, a private laundry in Noida, has been washing linen for Indian Railways for the past 20 years. In a 24-hour cycle as much as 35 tonnes of linen is washed.

    This includes 70,000 bed sheets, 35,000 pillow covers and 35,000 face towels. On an average, the laundry washes linen for 56 trains of the Delhi division on a daily basis.

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    The soiled linen comes in trucks and is unloaded at the laundry. The soiled sheets are loaded into the washing chamber of the huge machine. The machine has various chambers into which chemicals are fed in to clean the linen.

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    The laundry makes use of German machines to wash the linen. These machines save water by recycling it, says Nirupam Malhotra the owner of Launderaids.

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    After multiple levels of washes, the machine squeezes the water out of linen and pushes it out in the form of a 'cake'. The process takes around 20 minutes on an average.

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    This is then loaded into a dryer, where the bedsheets are 'tossed' about to further dry them. The dryer eventually 'throws' out the batch of bedsheets into a container.

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    From here the workers separate the sheets, checking each one for any visible stains. In case the bedsheet is not as clean as it should be, it is set aside for an even more rigorous wash.

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    The clean bedsheets and linen are then 'fed' into an ironing machine one by one by the workers in the factory. Even here the linen is checked for stains, Malhotra tells FE Online.

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    Workers at the other end of the machine take out the ironed sheets and fold them further for packaging purposes.

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    According to Malhotra, from each batch sheets are subjected to a 'whiteness' test randomly. After calibrating the whiteness, a minimum international level of 80 is maintained.

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    The pillow covers are washed separately, says Malhotra, adding that they tend to carry more stains. The stains vary from that of hair dye to oil.

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    The machine-washed and dried pillow covers are also fed into an ironing machine. The ironed pillow covers emerge at the other end of the machine and are folded by the workers.

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    According to Indian Railways, the average life of the linen ranges from 80 to 100 washes.

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    Towels on the other hand are dried with the help of different machines. These machines toss about towels till a temperature of 80 degrees is attained for them to dry.

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    Even though multiple machines wash the dirty linen, the factory employs as many as 300 workers. The operations run 24*7.

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    The plant makes use of ground water which is first treated by machines to reduce its hardness to acceptable levels.

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    The washed and packaged linen is loaded onto a truck and makes its way to a railway depot where it is checked at random by Indian Railways. If a certain percentage of linen is found to be unsatisfactory in terms of wash, the entire batch is returned to the laundry, says Railways.

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    Is Indian Railways setting up its own mechanised laundries? Yes, says Anil Saxena the spokesperson of Ministry of Railways. According to Saxena by March 2018, as much as 70% of the linen and blankets on Railways will be cleaned by mechanised laundries. Meanwhile, the CAG report is being studied and further action will be taken as necessary, says Indian Railways.

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