1.Track, the problem (Down to Earth)

2.A waste management model (Down to Earth)


1.Track, the problem (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of highest numbers of derailments of Indian railways. (GS paper II)


  • While India is preparing for bullet train, the largest passenger system in the world with 23 million passengers every day, the Indian Railways was hit by 78 derailments in 2016-17 with 193 people dead, the most in 10 years. Although accidents in general have fallen over 10 years but the derailments have risen over this period, an indication that trains are increasingly at peril.


  • Train derailments that indicate faults in tracks, besides other things, have always haunted safety in the Indian Railways. What is worrying is that the frequency of derailment is rising. The number of derailments in 2014-15 was 63. This went up to 76 in 2016-17, which means close to seven derailments a month or one derailment every four days. In fact, derailments accounted for 77 per cent of all train accidents that year.
  • According to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Safety and Security in Railways, though the traffic of both passengers and freight over the Railways network had increased by 1,344 per cent and 1,642 per cent respectively over the past 64 years, the route kilometres had grown by only 23 per cent. 40 per cent of the total track sections in the country were operating beyond their “line capacity”, a measure of how many trains a track section can support in a day.
  • According to the studies, the increased traffic has also resulted in an unbalanced growth. The study, headed by Niloy Gonguly, shows that train traffic has substantially increased in the Indo-Gangetic plain over the past two decades and, as a result, bulk of the train accidents happen in this high-traffic region. There is a strong relation between the traffic density and track condition. The high traffic also impacts track maintenance and repair work.
  • The Indian Railways has a system of scheduled inspections and patrolling of track. Tracks are inspected daily on foot by a key man. Also, senior and junior engineers use trollies and fast trains to check tracks at least once in a fortnight. Senior officials should inspect every two-three months. An engineer with the Northern Railways says thorough inspections rarely happen because of “large number of vacancies in key man and due to unauthorised absenteeism”.
  • According to the Parliamentary Committee report, the progress of track renewals is constantly coming down since the last six years; High traffic has also slowed down the process of replacing old tracks with new. The 12th Parliamentary Standing Committee explains the poor performance as “suffered from chronic and significant under investment as well as low internal generation of resources”.
  • Expenditure on the Railways as percentage of the transport sector expenditure has reduced from 56 per cent in 7th Five Year Plan to 30 per cent in 11th Plan. Further, the share of the Indian Railways in overall GDP is below 1 percent. Human error is another major concern.
  • Between 2013 and 2016, as many as 165 accidents happened due to the failure of railway staff. A major problem is “signal passing at danger”, which happens when a train jumps a stop signal on its own. 


  • While the Railways has introduced a lot of safety upgradations in the past, but a lot more is required. The government had introduced Flash Butt Welding process to connect tracks, which has higher strength than the earlier AluminoThermic method.
  • Another major safety step is the introduction of an Online Track Management System where all the data collected through monitoring and inspections are put for easy access within the Railways. The Railways can contain derailments even if it embraces indigenous technologies, several of them developed by the Research Designs & Standards Organisation of the Railways (RDSO).
  • There has been development of several technologies between 2005 and 2009 under the Technology Mission for Railway Safety (TMRS). One of the technologies developed was the Satellite Imaging for Rail Navigation which allows continuous tracking of every train for its location, speed and direction.
  • The technology is currently fitted in just 43 trains, such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duranto. It should be extended to all trains and the technology can be used for warning trains in case of danger. The Anil Kakodar committee (set up in 2012 by the Union Ministry of Railways) to review safety standards, suggested that all train coaches be replaced to Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches as they have special couplers that ensure coaches do not collide with each other in case of derailment.
  • Currently, only a few trains such as Rajdhani use LHB coaches. TMRS has also developed a Derailment Detection Device, the first of its kind in the world, which uses a three-axis sensor that informs the driver if the train crosses a prescribed speed. It also has the ability to apply brakes automatically if the train overspeeds. TMRS has also developed corrosion-prevention rails.
  • In 2011, the Sam Pitroda committee recommended the implementation of Train Protection and Warning System, under which if a driver tries to jump a stop signal, then the train can stop automatically. It can also be effective against derailment due to over speeding.
  • The government took a step in the right direction when it announced the Rs 1 lakh crore Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh in the 2017 Union budget, but it alone will not be sufficient.

Way ahead

  • There are enough technologies available to contain rail derailments, the challenge remains in the funding and intent. It is need of an hour to pause and reassess our strategy for providing sustainable, assured and preferred logistics services to the nation and contribute towards nation building.

QuestionNumber of train accidents due to derailments has increased in the last five years even as total number of accidents has declined, What are the cause of these accidents? Explain government measures.


2.A waste management model (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the Vengurla towns of India, a waste management park. (GS paper II)


  • India faces major environmental challenges associated with waste generation and inadequate waste collection, transport, treatment and disposal. Current systems in India cannot cope with the volumes of waste generated by an increasing urban population, and this has impact on the environment and public health. The challenges and barriers are significant, but so are the opportunities.
  • Waste management rules in India are based on the principles of “sustainable development”, “precaution” and “polluter pays”. These principles mandate municipalities and commercial establishments to act in an environmentally accountable and responsible manner restoring balance, if their actions disrupt it.
  • Vengurla is one of the only towns in India to convert a landfill into a waste management park, called the Swachh Bharat Waste Park.

About Vengurla

  • In 2015, the town with a population of 15,000 adopted waste segregation at source and today has achieved more than 95 per cent segregation. It is also one of the only towns in the country to generate revenue out of waste. A local body of the town earns Rs 1.5 lakh per month from processing 7 tonnes waste generated per day by the town.
  • The man behind the transformation, Ramadan Kokare, who took over as Vengurla’s chief officer in 2015 believes that apart from segregation at source, no city can become clean without public participation.
  • The town made its bye-laws for solid waste management, as mandated under the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016. Under the bye-laws, Vengurla banned the usage of plastic bags of less than 50 microns and imposed a fine of Rs 500 for its usage.
  • Littering and non-segregation were also fined. A defaulter is fined only after two warnings. Implementation is assured by close monitoring by the local body, which also encourages citizens to segregate. Citizens as well as sanitation workers were educated on the need for segregation at source.
  • The city has 25 sanitation workers, who are regularly trained on waste management by the body. Apart from holding door to door meetings, each household was provided with a dustbin to segregate their waste. The park now hosts a biogas plant, a briquette-making plant, a segregation yard and a plastic crusher unit. It also has fruit trees and an organic farm. The idea was to make waste management look hygienic and pristine, not a mess it is generally perceived to be.

How waste is managed in Vengurla-

Way ahead

  • The state government conferred Vengurla the Vasundhra Award, 2017 for its green initiatives and shortlisted it as a successful model for 100 per cent solid waste management under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The current situation is that India relies on inadequate waste infrastructure, the informal sector and waste dumping.
  • There are major issues associated with public participation in waste management and there is generally a lack of responsibility towards waste in the community. There is a need to cultivate community awareness and change the attitude of people towards waste, as this is fundamental to developing proper and sustainable waste management system. We can learn from the Vengurla.

Question– Population growth and particularly the development of megacities is making Waste Management in India a major problem.  India faces challenges related to its waste policy, waste technology selection and the availability of appropriately trained people, in the waste management sector. Analyse the statement and also explain what we can learn from Vengurla?