According to an official who was quoted in the report, in the face of these rampant thefts, Indian Railways has decided that face towels which are given to passengers travelling in air-conditioned coaches will be replaced with napkins.
Over 21 lakh towels, bedsheets, blankets and other commodities have gone missing from air-conditioned coaches of Indian Railways trains during the year 2017-18. An official was quoted in an IANS report saying that the prime suspects for these incidents are the affluent AC passengers! In the last fiscal year, passengers are suspected to have made off with 21,72,246 bedroll items specifically, including 12,83,415 hand towels, 4,71,077 bedsheets and 3,14,952 pillow covers from several Indian Railways trains across the country. Apart from this, Indian Railways detected that 56,287 pillows and 46,515 blankets were missing from the AC coaches in the particular period.
A senior Railway Ministry official was quoted in the report saying that the total estimated cost of all the missing items is over Rs 14 crore. The maximum number of stolen items were towels, followed by bedsheets, as observed by coach attendants at the end of each journey. Although the theft of toilet mugs, taps, flush pipes and mirrors was also reported on a regular basis, but the missing bedroll items in such huge numbers has posed a challenge for Indian Railways, especially at a time when it are trying to improve the amenities for the upper class passengers.
Presently 3.9 lakh sets of linen are provided by Indian Railways everyday, which comprises two bedsheets, a towel, a pillow and a blanket for each passenger in the AC classes. According to the data of missing items mentioned in the report, here are some findings with respect to the specific zonal rail networks:
- Among the 16 zonal networks of Indian Railways, the Southern zone alone estimated for the theft of 2,04,113 hand towels, 29,573 bedsheets, 44,868 pillow covers, 3,713 pillows and 2,745 blankets
- South Central zone registered 95,700 towels, 29,747 pillow covers, 22,323 bedsheets, 3,352 blankets and 2,463 pillows as missing
- In the Northern zone 85,327 towels, 38,916 bedsheets, 25,313 pillow covers, 3,224 pillows and 2,483 blankets were found missing
- In the East Central zone, 33,234 bedsheets, 22,769 pillow covers, 1,657 pillows, 76,852 towels, and 3,132 blankets were stolen last year
- In the Eastern zone, 1,31,313 towels, 20,258 bedsheets, 9,006 pillow covers, 1,517 pillows and 1,913 blankets were detected missing by the train attendants
- The East Coast railways registered 43,318 towels, 23,197 bedsheets, 8,060 pillow covers, and 2,260 blankets as missing
According to an official who was quoted in the report, in the face of these rampant thefts, especially of towels, Indian Railways has decided that face towels which are given to passengers travelling in air-conditioned coaches will be replaced with cheaper, smaller, disposable, takeaway napkins. The national transporter has already started implementing some changes. It has started changing the covers of blankets in some sections while the frequency of washing is being increased from monthly to fortnightly and weekly.
Indian railways also plans to increase the frequency of washing of blankets and replacing the existing ones with the newly designed, lightweight blankets which are made up of soft fabric. An official was quoted in the report saying that this revised plan outlines the improvement of linen management with the objective of providing clean, hygienic and good quality linen to passengers travelling in AC classes.