The opening of beauty salons at railway stations has not gone down well with a majority of commuters and rail activists. Recently, branches of the Liberty Salon – a plush unisex facility – came up at the Churchgate and Andheri railway stations, while the V Mat salon already exists at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT). Services fall in the price range of Rs99-Rs1,499.
Asserting that the railways should instead focus on improving the overall infrastructure of stations, Manohar Shelar, Founder-President of the Federation of Suburban Railway Passengers’ Association, said, “Opening a salon seems irrelevant when the railways are unable to provide basic facilities like proper medical shops and drinking water.”
Diminished ‘one rupee clinics’
Around 20 ‘one rupee clinics’ were previously operational at several suburban railway stations on the Western and Central lines. These clinics were opened to provide timely medical treatment to rail accident victims, with the consultation fee being only Re1. However, almost all clinics have been discontinued for the last four years.
“Salon and spa services do not come under basic amenities. Space should be provided to open small clinics rather than beauty parlours. Separate rooms can be built for senior citizens to relax, and for women to breastfeed their children,” averred Shelar.
Madhu Kotian, President of the Railway Passenger Association, said, “Instead of beauty parlours, 'one rupee clinics' should be restarted as it's a crucial facility for passengers, especially for those who can't afford expensive medical care.”
Whereas, a passenger pointed out that a plethora of fast-food items are being sold at railway stations. “The authorities should take the initiative to provide nutritious and healthy food options,” the commuter demanded.
Commuters question need for luxury services when basic hygiene absent
The unhygienic washrooms at railway stations are another significant issue. Most of the toilets are dirty with defunct flushing systems. For instance, the men's toilet at the CSMT in the local train concourse is poorly maintained. The floor is always wet and slippery, while urine flows down open drains. Another commuter asked, “When there are so many problems faced by commuters, why is there a need to open a luxury service?”
Sidesh Desai, General Secretary of the Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, believes that railway stations are often seen as high-risk areas, especially during peak hours. There is a risk that the presence of a salon might attract unwanted attention and lead to safety concerns for women. “The railway funds should be diverted towards the security of passengers. Railway stations could implement access control systems for entry and exit, like those used in Metro stations. The safety of passengers should be the priority,” he added.
However, Lata Argade, Secretary of the Suburban Railway Passenger Association, supported the decision to open salons at railway stations. “Many women are working for 10-12 hours daily. They don't have the time to visit salons. Having a salon at railway stations can be convenient for them.”
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