Full Crowd at IPL Playoffs

After the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot has changed regarding the interaction between people and the allowance of crowds. After initial lockdown days, as the world reopened after the pandemic, the games, like cricket, football, rugby and even Olympics were held remotely without any spectators. However, as the pandemic subsided, bit by bit, the crowds were allowed in, first only 25%, and then gradually increasing it to 100% in some countries. India hosted a number of cricket matches both without spectators and with 50% or less capacity of spectators. As Covid-19 is largely becoming almost extinct in India, IPL playoffs have been allowed with full crowd.

IPL 2022 started remotely on 26th March, with no spectators and only broadcasts. But gradually, from 6th April onwards, Maharashtra Cricket Association allowed 50% of the crowd in IPL matches. This boosted up the revenue of IPL 2022, which is by far the highest revenue earning league in the world. Revenue was running quite low when the tournament started, but even allowing 50% of the crowd was enough to meet the expenditure of IPL matches, and also gain profit at the same time.

Now, as the Covid-19 is by far absent almost throughout India, the BCCI is looking for options of allowing 100% crowd for more spectators. The playoffs are expected to be held with 100% crowd in Kolkata and Ahmedabad. The news has spread like wildfire, drawing craze among the cricket fans, causing the tickets to be booked at record speed.

The Qualifier 1 and the Eliminator will be held in Kolkata, on 24th and 25th May respectively. The Qualifier 2 and the Final will be played in Ahmedabad on 27th May and 29th May respectively. This year, 10 teams are fighting out for 4 spots in the playoffs, creating more challenges. The addition of Lucknow and Gujarat this year has gone well with the crowd. Currently no team has qualified yet, with only Mumbai Indians are out of question for the playoffs, and the rest 9 teams are in the hunt. Are you all ready to find out the new champions of IPL?

Written by – Himadri Paul

Sikkim Transport Connectivity

Sikkim, the least populous state in India, is strategically one of the most important. Sikkim is tucked away in the high hills of the Himalayas, and is connected to the rest of India through only one major road. Sikkim borders 3 countries, China, Nepal and Bhutan, and parts of it are disputed with China. With Chinese expansion in various border sectors of India, including Doklam plateau, India should need to step up its transportation in the border states.

As Sikkim is located high in the hills, waterways are not an option for transportation in this state. Sikkim has only one road connected to Siliguri town, the NH10, which often gets blocked in the monsoon due to landslides. Thus there is a need to expand railway and air service in Sikkim, apart from improving the road condition of NH10, and exploring other roadways possibilities.

The NH10 is being expanded to 4 lane and landslide-prone. There is another road connecting Darjeeling with Jorethang. A third road is under construction, which will connect Kalimpong town with Oodlabari near Siliguri, and will proceed to Pedong, Zuluk and Nathu La pass, following the old silk route from China.

Sikkim got its first airport when the greenfield Pakyong airport was made operational in 2018. However, the airport lacked basic facilities, like night-landing facilities, less runway length, and hence, it is not possible to make it a commercial success. Its only operating airline, SpiceJet, suspended operations for nearly 2 years due to villager’s agitations and technical challenges in landing in the airport. The good news is that flight operations have resumed, though irregular. Pakyong airport, if maintained well along with reliable flight operations, can be a commercial success, drawing tourists from all over the country to this small, picturesque state.

The most talked about transportation link to Sikkim is the railways. A small station by the name of Sevok, is the nearest railway station in Sikkim, and hence, it was planned to lay a railway line from Sevok to Rangpo in Sikkim. The railway line is currently under construction, with new stations proposed at Rangpo, Melli, Tista Bazaar, and Riang. More than 85% of the line is through tunnels and bridges. After the foundation stone was laid in 2009, it took 10 years for work to start owing to non-availability of forest clearances, wildlife clearances and unrest in Darjeeling. Though the Indian Government is hopeful of completing the project by its deadline in December 2023, it is unlikely to be met.

After proper connectivity, the smallest state of India, in terms of population will become the largest state in terms of tourism and revenue earning per capita. Sikkim is also India’s first state, where farming is 100% organic. Also it is encouraging various ecological and environmental measures to protect the fragile environment it uniquely possess.

Written by – Himadri Paul

A Neighbour Less Talked About – Myanmar

India’s neighbours are often in the talks, be it for good reasons or bad. Bangladesh and Bhutan are usually talked about for mostly good reasons, while Pakistan and China are talked about for mostly bad reasons. Nepal and Sri Lanka are talked about on how India helps its neighbours to grow. But there is a neighbour, about whom most Indians know very little about. Yes, that neighbour is Myanmar.

Myanmar has been a more failed state, than Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka. Since independence, Myanmar could do little for its citizens, rather it has shrinked itself to complete isolation from the rest of the world. The most powerful unit in Myanmar is the Junta, which has recently for the second time overthrew the demographically elected Government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

After gaining independence from British rule, Myanmar slowly tried to build itself from its ruins. But in 1962, the military overthrew the Government and took the reins of administration upon itself. While military rule in some countries is not that bad, the military rule did more harm than good to Myanmar’s rise as an independent nation. Till 2011, the military rule did misery to the country, forcing its people into poverty, displacing thousands, killing minorities and threatening its own destruction.

The year 2011 brought about a sea of change in the politics of Myanmar, when elections were legally held for the very first time, and people chose Aung San Suu Kyi as their leader. However, it is alleged that Aung San Suu Kyi herself had little powers, especially regarding the Rohingya crisis, and that the military was still the decision-maker in politics. However, the demographically-elected Government was hugely popular among the masses, triggering panic among the junta that despite the country’s protectors, they are getting hugely unpopular.

Hence, a fresh coup was the result in 2021, in which the junta again overthrew the demographically-elected Government to fulfil their own needs. But now, together with the Covid-19 pandemic threw the country to chaos, and took the country’s economy to the brink of collapse. Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to imprisonment for an indefinite period of time, and so are a number of leaders of her party. India has seen a recent surge in migration of refugees from Myanmar to India.

However, India, having to deal with Pakistan’s terrorism, Bangladeshi illegal immigrants, Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, Covid-19, and other factors, is not looking to meddle in Myanmar’s internal matters. India supports Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, but given the cruelty and harsh nature of the junta regime, it is not likely that Aung San Suu Kyi and her party is going to make a popular comeback anytime soon.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Summer Retreat Hill Stations in India

Hill stations have been popular in India since ancient times due to the presence of shrines and religious places, as well as for scenic beauty. During British rule, some of the hill stations near important cities in India got a new lease of life. The British could not tolerate the heat in India during the summer season. Hence the Government officials and civilians retreated to the hills for a vacation during summer. Some of them even today bear signs of colonial rule, and Victorian buildings, mountain railways, and malls.

Today, as modern transportation has increased, and the ability of people to afford frequent vacations, summer tourism in the hills has increased many fold. Let us look at the summer hill stations that are popular in India since the times of British rule.

1)Darjeeling :

Tea Gardens, Darjeeling

Darjeeling is the most popular retreat of the Bengali people living in the plains in Kolkata, Siliguri, Asansol and other towns. Darjeeling and it’s surrounding Kurseong and Kalimpong areas developed during the British rule as the retreated from Kolkata during the heat of summer. The Darjeeling toy train, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is still popular among the locals and tourists alike, and is run by a steam engine. The route contains the Ghum railway station, the highest in the entire India. The tea gardens, the orange orchards, and shopping in the colonial mall are a must see in Darjeeling.

2)Shimla :

Shimla Kalka Train, Shimla

Shimla, the summer capital of Himachal Pradesh, is a bustling town, high up on the hills, near Delhi and Punjab towns. Since British rule, Shimla still is the most popular tourist destination near Delhi in any season. The colonial Christ Church, the ridge, the hilltops, the enchanted trails, and the Shimla Kalka railway line makes Shimla a perfect hill station. Not to forget, like the Darjeeling toy train, the Shimla Kalka train is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3)Ooty :

Boating in Ooty Lake

Ooty, the hill station not far from Chennai, is an ideal summer retreat for the people of Chennai, Mysore, Bangalore and Kozhikode. Ooty is full of lakes, parks, nature reserves, and tea gardens, all of which add to the beauty of Nilgiri Hills. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Ooty is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Avalanche Lake, Botanical Garden, and Doddabetta peaks are some well known tourist spots. Nearby Coonoor and Coorg are also important hill stations in that area.

4)Mahabaleshwar :

Mahabaleshwar Strawberry Festival

This famed hill station is famous for strawberries, which are produced in this area. Mahabaleshwar is also an important pilgrimage site, being the source of the Krishna river. Being located close to Mumbai and Pune, it attracts a huge crowd in summer time. This quiet little hill station is also near major waterfalls in the area like Dhobi falls, Lingmala falls, and Vajrai falls. The Kash plateau, the flower paradise on earth, is not far away.

5)Shillong :

View of Shillong Town from Shillong Peak

Shillong also attracts people from all over India, and forms a quick retreat for tourists from Guwahati, Assam. Ward’s Lake, Umiam Lake and Shillong peak, will never fail to mesmerize the tourists with stunning views. Shillong also hosts India’s cherry blossom festival in the month of November. Nearby villages like Cherrapunji and Mawlynnong are worth visiting for being the wettest and cleanest villages on Earth respectively.

Which of these hills stations is your favourite? Do let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Why even 37℃ is too hot in Kolkata?

Heatwave is classified in India, when a region experiences maximum temperature greater than 40℃ for plains and departure of maximum temperature greater than 4.5℃ from normal. Going by the definition, Kolkata did not experience a single day of heatwave yet in this April, though north Kolkata did experience heatwave days in the beginning of this week.

Though the maximum temperature was not that much to be called a heatwave, the real feel temperature was very high, too high to be tolerated for people of Kolkata. For example, when the temperature of Kolkata hovered around 39℃, the real feel temperature rose beyond 50℃. The humidity is the main culprit here. Water vapour content in the air remained high, which caused excessive sweating, and thus we felt unusually hot this summer. This makes 37 degrees in Kolkata, which is only 2 degrees above normal far hotter to feel than that of Asansol, Bankura, or even deserts of Rajasthan.

Also, there hasn’t been a single drop of rain in Kolkata in March and April, the last rain being insignificant on 28th February. Such rainless conditions are unusual for Kolkata, as the city usually experiences nor’westers, a wind originating from the western parts of the state, bringing in thunderstorms and rain, and temporarily cooling down the temperature. The city hasn’t experienced a single day of thunderstorm, as though the moisture content in air is high, conditions are not conducive for rainfall here. The conditions are favourable in north Bengal, which is experiencing continuous rain during the last 2 months.

The western districts of the state of West Bengal are already experiencing heat waves throughout this entire week. Bankura, Burdwan, Asansol are regularly experiencing 42-44℃ since the Poila Baishakh, the Bengali New Year. However, there is a news of respite for these states from the 1st week of May, when heat-triggered thunderstorms are predicted throughout Bengal. Kolkata too may get some share of rainfall at the same time. Kolkata has already broken the 43-day record of the longest continuous spell of dry days in this millennia. Currently, 60 days have passed without a drop of rain. Hopefully, May may bring some rain, and turn the fortunes of Kolkata.

Amidst all these, the State Government has announced early summer vacation for schools and colleges. Post-pandemic, the school’s reopened at the beginning or mid of April. Many teachers, parents, institutions are unhappy with the decision as the schools have closed as soon as they began offline classes. However, Covid-19 situation, despite being under control, is increasing in some states. Hence, considering both the pandemic and heatwave factors, the State Government has justified the closure of schools for the summer vacation.

Written by – Himadri Paul