To raise non-fare revenues, Indian Railways runs health ATMs, provides quick diagnostics

Iram Siddique
Indian Railways, Indian Railways revenue, Indian Railways health ATMs, India express

The machines can test for 16 different non-invasive nutritional parameters.

Waiting for his train at Nagpur station, Shankar Dayal’s eyes ran to a sleek white machine which read ‘Health ATM’ modestly placed at one end of the waiting hall on platform number 1. With the indicator showing about 30 minutes before his train arrival, Dayal curiously walked up to the Health ATM. A paramedic at the kiosk asked him to hold the grab handles of the machine and stand on an attached platform that works as a weighing scale. Within seconds came out a printed slip which had analysed Dayal’s Body Mass Index (BMI), and hydration level, which was low. The report further elaborated that his blood sugar and blood pressure were in the normal range but proteins were low.

“It was all tested for Rs 60 and within a few minutes — that too at the railway station. Any pathologist would have taken at least Rs 200 for some basic test but there it was — as simple as withdrawing cash,” said Dayal.

These Health ATMs have brought together “point of care devises” assembled with software to give out medical reports instantly. The machines can test for 16 different non-invasive nutritional parameters. “They have reinvented health testing and made it affordable,” said Shyju Raju, a resident of Hyderabad, who also got his test done at Nagpur.

These machines come as a perfect fit in “New Innovative and Idea Scheme” of Indian Railway for generating revenue under Non-Fare Revenue (NFR). The NFR, which was first announced in 2010-11, has been a non-starter over the years but gained momentum under over the past year with railways looking at falling revenues.

To meet the shortfall in revenue, railways have also implemented a hike in their long-distance train to generate about Rs 2,300 crore with increased fares. An official from the railway explained, “the NFR is an important aspect of revenue generation apart from ticketing. The targets are to generate about 10-20 per cent of the annual expenditure through NFR. But sadly under NFR, advertisements were only thought as a way of generating revenue until now”. These Heath ATMs have also been successfully operating at Nagpur, Lucknow, Bhopal and other stations.

“Though we'll be getting about a little over a lakh as annual contract fees from per Health ATM as but every lakh adds to make a crore,” said an official from Western Railways, which has a target of Rs 100 crore towards NFR in 2019-20.