A Schoolgirl invented new train toilet
Fourteen-year-old K. Masha Nazeem of
Nagercoil, daughter of N. Kaja Nazeemuddin, a government employee, Tamil Nadu,
had two years ago designed a train toilet that would keep tracks at stations free from filth and stench.
The invention brought her a cash award at the Indian Science Congress in Hyderabad last year, as well as a note of encouragement from then President
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The Class X student will be the only schoolgirl at the October 31-November 3 summit,
where UN and government agencies will focus on public sanitation programmes.
Masha with Kalam after her invention
Masha’s achievement, at age 12 when she was in Class VIII, is remarkable in a country
where 70 crore people lack access to proper sanitation and where water contamination by human waste is seen
as the biggest health problem. The invitation to the World Toilet Summit in
Delhi came from A.K. Singh, an executive with Sulabh International, which is organising the summit
together with the Singapore-based World Toilet Organisation. Sulabh is a social organisation devoted to building cheap and hygienic public toilets.
Masha’s invention allows a locomotive driver to switch off waste release from all the toilets when the train enters a station.
The waste collects in a tank, to be discharged by another press of a switch once the train leaves the platform.
The device, said to be simple and elegant, had amazed railway engineers and railway minister Lalu
Prasad. Junior railway minister R. Velu had promised to consider incorporating it in coaches built by the Integral Coach Factory in
Chennai. Kalam had suggested that Masha apply for a patent. “We have taken his advice and
applied to the Madras Patent Office. We have also filed the complete specifications of the invention,”
Nazeemuddin said. Masha’s device made news when it won the first prize at the
Southern India Science Fair 2005 in Secunderabad.