The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Schoolgirl clears Laloo stink
- 12-year-old invents hygienic drainage system for railways

Chennai, Sept. 7: She lives in a house without a phone. That hasn’t stopped this 12-year-old inventor from solving a century-old problem: that of filthy, smelly tracks at the country’s railway stations.

Class VIII girl K. Masha Nazeem’s “hygienic drainage disposal system in trains” can finally help the railway minister ' and millions like him ' breathe easy.

Laloo Prasad Yadav had recently ordered his ministry to redesign the flushing system in train toilets so that human waste from stationary trains did not soil the tracks at stations.

Railway engineers were already on the job, but the schoolgirl from Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, amazed the authorities with the simplicity and elegance of her design.

It’s her system that the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai will follow, Union minister of state for railways, R. Velu, said. In about a year, the new coaches rolling out of the factory will have their toilets fitted with Nazeem’s “controlled discharge system”.

The device allows the engine driver to control the discharge of waste from the toilets.

As soon as a train rolls into a station, the driver can switch off release of the waste, which will collect in a storage tank. After the train leaves the station, he can press a switch to dump the filth.

“Miss Nazeem has demonstrated her device to us and we have taken note of it,” Velu said. “This schoolgirl has come up with an idea and we want to encourage her. We are trying to see how the system can be improved further.”

The minister first saw Nazeem’s device at the Southern India Science Fair 2005 in Secunderabad, where it bagged the first prize. “I had presented Nazeem with a cash award of Rs 5,000,” Velu recalled.

What motivated Nazeem'

The schoolgirl, whose father N. Kaja Nazeemudeen works in the government district treasury at Nagercoil, could not be reached as she has no telephone at home.

But her headmistress, Sister Michaelamma of Joseph Convent Higher Secondary School, explained: “She had come to know from a news broadcast that the railway minister had threatened action against those who soil tracks at railway stations. That set her working.”

After devising her system, Nazeem kept writing to Rail Bhavan officials in Delhi, her persistence finally winning her an audience with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a great believer in “igniting young minds” and “aiming high”.

The meeting took place in the third week of August ' after Velu had seen her device and decided to adopt it.

As with the rocket scientist so with her schoolmates, Nazeem has explained the science behind her device to all.

“She is a very intelligent girl, very courageous and has no stage fear at all,” the headmistress said.

“She joined us this year in class VIII, but she has been working on her device since she was in class VII at our sister institution, Ignatious Convent Higher Secondary School in Palayamkottai (near Tirunelveli). She has been inventing things right from the time she was in class IV.”

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