Thursday, September 24, 2015


                A Cryptocurrency is a medium of Exchange using Cryptographic Methods to secure transactions and control creation of new units. [Andy Green Berg (20th Apr, 2011) –]
                Cryptocurrencies belong to a class of currencies called an alternative currency- where a different mode of Exchange is used in lieu of a Currency System. Cryptocurrencies are also called as digital currencies. Cryptocurrencies like Bit Coin have recently made News. That is because there are several issues related to cryptocurrencies.
                To keep things short and simple, it will suffice to say that cryptocurrencies should have following features.
1.A large and reliable computing power.
2.Peer based valuation of the rate/price of cryptocurrency.
                Many Asian Nations are infotech giants in their own right. Between them they have a large enough computing power, as several super computers in the TOP 500 supercomputers Globally are Asian.
                As for peer based valuation,the Asian Central Banks can provide sovereign based guarantee to the value of CoinAsia- The Asian Cryptocurrency.
Why Does Asia need CoinAsia?
                There are certain inherent advantages of Cryptocurrencies.
1.Minimal Transaction Cost:
                                Whenever you do a transaction with your credit card or any kind of Banking, a small Amount is deducted from your account as service charges. With Cryptocurrencies such costs are minimal and in many cases it is free.
2.It is very fast
                When you pay cheque to any bank, your Money is held by the bank from a few hours to many days. In the same way, international fund transfers take a long time. This is because the banks have to verify that the Money is really available for transaction to occur. With Cryptocurrencies this is done a lot faster.
3.Minimal chance for Fraud:
                A person who has paid with CoinAsia cannot snatch the money back without the recipient’s consent. Because of this, it becomes difficult to commit fraud that we see in the banking system today.
Asian countries must come together and float a Cryptocurrency called CoinAsia. They can allocate a fixed computing power for Cryptocurrency mining and regulate its value in the market. If done, this will be the first time that Governments will own and regulate Cryptocurrencies. This will also discourage unscrupulous elements who have so far been misusing Cryptocurrencies like Bit Coin.
4.It is Non-Inflationary:
                Cryptocurrencies usually have a fixed maximum number of units limited by computing power. That means that beyond that particular number, the Cryptocurrency cannot grow. [The maximum possible number for Bit Coin is 21 million]. Hence there will be no inflation. [Inflation is simply – “more money chasing fewer Goods”. But here, CoinAsia supply will be fixed. Thus, no inflation]
5.By introducing Governments into the Cryptocurrency equation, we can discourage Criminal elements from abusing Cryptocurrencies to commit Crimes and Frauds. Government Banks, and moreover multiple Governments will be regulating CoinAsia. There will thus be sovereign backing to the Cryptocurrency.
6.CoinAsia as a Precursor to a unified Asian Currency:
                                As of now, it is not possible for Asia (as a whole) to have a unified Asian Currency. The reason is that there are several barriers (Economic & Political) between the various Asian nations. It will take some time till these gaps are bridged. Until then the people of Asia can transact with CoinAsia. In the real world Asia has many paper- currencies. But in the Cyber world Asians can transact with one currency that will unite all Asia–CoinAsia. Say, over a period of Ten years, the barriers will come down and the path is paved for a unified Asian currency like the Euro.
7.Asian Governments can transact using CoinAsia. This will eliminate the need to transact with the Dollar. There are several benefits in such kind of transactions.
a.Trading countries need not have Dollar Reserves. 
Since CoinAsia will be pegged to their local currency, all they need to have is enough liquidity in their own currency.
b.There will be minimal or no Balance of Payment (BOP) crisis. 
This is because the use of Dollar as reserve currency is bypassed.
c.Swap agreements become easier and less costly. Say for instance, Mauritius (Asian Nation) wants to trade with South Africa (African Nation) but does not have enough dollars. All that Mauritius gas to do is sell its existing CoinAsia reserves to (say) Malaysia (Asian Country) and obtain Dollars (at a fixed Exchange rate). Thus, there is hardly any need to keep a running Dollar Account.
8.The Rest of the world can trade with the whole of Asia in only one currency (CoinAsia).
If Peru wants to trade with Nepal (Asian Country) all it has to do is buy CoinAsia with its local currency and pay Nepal in CoinAsia units. Not only that, Peru can buy similar goods at a different price from say Bhutan or Bangladesh. Here the trade is not dependent on Dollar or Euro or other hard currencies (which have their own problems associated with their Exchange).
9.Every day, hundreds of millions of Dollars are paid across Asia as transaction costs. By using CoinAsia at least a fraction of that cost is eliminated. That translates into Millions of Dollars left in the hands of consumers. This will lead to increased saving, increased investment and hence growth of economy in Asian countries.
10.The whole of Asia can have a single integrated commercial transaction system. This will lead to uniformity in Commercial and Accounting standards. This has immense impact on consumer satisfaction. As consumers will find shopping and business transactions to be seamless and Hassle free. A single CoinAsia card can be used to shop all across Asia. This will also allow better fiscal intercourse between Asian Nations as any deficit can be offset by CoinAsia loans which can then be traded for Dollars, other hard currencies or the local currency itself.
                As discussed, there are several benefits of CoinAsia – The Asian Cryptocurrency. Now is the time that Asia must seize and create CoinAsia that will have a tremendous positive impact on Asian Economies and the people of Asia as a whole.
                                     -Dr.Kartik Hegadekatti.

Dr.Kartik Hegadekatti is an Indian Civil Service officer.He is the Joint Secretary of CDMT,Govt. of India and presently serving in the Ministry of Railways.Views Expressed are Personal.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


The Indian Railways has a category of employees called Trackmen (or Gangmen). The Gangmen, so called because they work in groups or Gangs, are concerned with the safety of the Tracks on which 19,000 of India's Trains run.  Every day in India, almost two hundred thousand gangmen walk through the 1,15,000 odd kilometres of railway tracks[1]. They do this in an effort to survey the tracks.

Railway Tracks needs regular maintenance to remain in good order, especially when high-speed trains are involved. Rails contract in cold conditions and may fracture. They expand in hot conditions and may buckle. Or they may get corroded/corrugated or damaged due to Rail-Wheel interaction. As trains move, ballast is crushed/moved by the weight of trains passing over it, periodically requiring re-levelling ("tamping") and eventually cleaning or replacement. If this is not done, the tracks may become uneven causing swaying and rough riding. All these factors (and others) may cause derailment of trains. Inadequate maintenance may lead to a Speed Restriction being imposed to avoid accidents.

Track maintenance is hard manual labour, requiring teams of labourers, trackmen or Gangmen. On finding any fault with the tracks, the try to correct it then and there. If repair is not possible, they alert the railway administration on the nature of the problem and get it corrected.  It is partly because of their toil and hard work that passengers roaming on the vast Indian Railway network have a largely accident-free travel experience. They go about maintaining the tracks, be it in intolerable heat of Indian summer , or the insufferable Himalayan winters.

Every year about 400 gangmen are run over by trains while working on the rail tracks[2]. Several hundreds of them suffer injuries or incapacitation. Many of them also suffer from the chronic diseases due to the nature of their work. Truly, they are the unsung heroes and a great asset of the Railways and also the Nation. But unfortunately, inspite of the Gangmen's hard work and efforts, accidents do happen.

I believe that technology not only alleviates troubles but also prevents problems from occurring in the first place. Therefore, in order to reduce the Burden on the Gangmen and increase their efficiency and output we must take the help of technology. One such important innovation that can help the Indian Railways is the use of Drones (Unmanned Air Vehicles- UAVs) for Track and traction (including electric lines) surveillance.

It may appear unusual as to how UAVs can be used for Railway track surveillance. But think a little deeper and it becomes obvious that UAVs are the natural choice to survey Railway tracks in the 21st century.Drones are already used to inspect Powerlines and Pipelines. The production side of oil and gas exploration and production entails the monitoring of the integrity of oil and gas pipelines and related installations. For above-ground pipelines, this monitoring activity is performed using digital cameras mounted on one or more UAVs [3].

How can we go about using UAVs for Railway track surveillance?
Imagine this scenario. A drone takes off from a nearby drone base (for Railways). It has within itself Radar, Infrared and Ultrasound transmitters and sensors. As it flies along a pre-set path (or flown by a controller) it continuously sends out Radar, Infrared and Ultrasound waves towards the tracks. These waves get reflected from the track Rail, sleeper and ballast and is received by the receiver on-board the drone. Now the data collected is quickly analysed. By comparing the outgoing pulse with the returning echoes, computer systems can produce detailed picture of the tracks. Any defect or unusual occurrence with respect to track- rail/sleeper integrity is detected and the nearest technician/Gangman is alerted. He/she will approach the spot and try to get the anomaly corrected.

For the drone to analyse the Radar, Infrared and Ultrasound waves it receives, it will have a template to which it can compare the received data. This template is nothing but the radar, infrared and ultrasonic signature of the normal intact track in that place at that time. For this purpose, extensive research to collect and feed normal track data is required. This can easily be done by using the large and relatively inexpensive technical manpower at the government's disposal involving government and private entities.

The drones can also be used to survey electric traction lines running above the railway tracks. Moreover the drones can also be used in search and rescue missions during disaster and accidents.
The various advantages of using drones for railway track surveillance-
1) Very quick, reliable and objective assessment of track structure.
2) Real-time surveillance of track structure for improved safety and quick repair.
3) Reduction in the burden of responsibility on gangmen and railway staff. This will also reduce fatalities of patrolling gangmen and provide better working conditions for railway staff involved in track surveillance.
4) A very reliable and real-time surveillance is possible. As a precursor to quick surveillance for High-Speed Railway, (which will soon be a reality) drones may be a technological solution.
5) Development of technical know-how and expertise which will have several civilian and defence spin-offs.
6) it will provide employment to a large number of people like engineers, drone experts and electronics professionals.
7) when any defect is detected and a railway staff rushes to the spot to correct it, the track can be surveyed post-repair also in real-time.
8) as mentioned earlier, drones  can also be used in search and rescue missions during disaster and accidents. Infact, the drones may be the first to reach and report about the railway accident in a remote area.
9) This area will become an excellent interface for civilian-defence co-operation as the military has drone expertise.

Advantage Of Drones Vis-A-Vis Track Machines
There are machines called track machines which run on the railway track in question. As they move along, they test rail sensitivity using specialised sensors on-board. If defects are found, the crew on the track machines correct the problem then and there, if possible. One may then ask, as to why we need drones for surveillance when track machines do an almost similar job. The answer is that there are several inherent advantages in using drones like-
A) When a track machine is on the line inspecting the track, no other train (passenger or freight) can use that path. This is known as working in a block. It means that when repair and maintenance is going on, no other train can run on that path. This leads to congestion and slowing of movements on that section of the track. More  so if the track in question is a very busy one- as on Indian Railways. By using drones, we can totally do away with working in a block. This will allow for optimum utilisation of resources and better running of trains.
B) Track machine, particularly those used for inspection purposes, have been involved in a number of serious incidents, including deaths. Factors leading to derailment include failed locking equipment, wheel failure, damaged rail wheel support systems, and uneven or over-loading issues. Moreover, track machines have to carry heavy rails, sleepers etc when they may not be needed. Drones do not have this disadvantage.
C) Track machines unlike drones, cannot be used for search and rescue in case of accidents like drones. Though they can be used for restoration and repair.

Assuming that each drone can survey about 50-75 kilometres of tracks a day, the whole of the Indian Railway Network (64,000 route kilometres) can be surveyed by around  a thousand drones. Drone stations can be set up in every railway division.

It must be remembered here that drones are in no way a replacement to Gangmen or railway staff. After the drone has detected any track fault, it has to be corrected by human hands under human supervision. Drones can never replace that. Drones are only meant as a way to reduce burden on the hard working Gangmen and to improve safety and efficiency.

Drone technology may be expensive at present and initial investment may have to be intensive. But in the long run there is no price too heavy to be paid where human life and safety is involved. Critics of India's space program (in the early days) had argued that it was too expensive for a country like India. But recently, it was ISRO's satellites that correctly predicted the path of cyclone Phailin that hit the Odisha coast. Because of the warning (by ISRO) people were evacuated from the path of the cyclone and sheltered in safety. This led to minimal casualties. India's space program more than paid for itself. Drones will fulfil a similar function and greatly improve our safety and efficiency outlook in train running.




                                                                  -Dr.Kartik Hegadekatti.

Dr.Kartik Hegadekatti is an Indian Civil Service officer presently serving in the Ministry of Railways in India.Views Expressed are Personal.