How India have become a Major Buyer of Russian Oil

Before the outbreak of the Ukraine-Russia war, hardly any crude oil from Russia used to reach the country. However, in the last few days, India has emerged to be the one of the prime importers of Russian oil, despite what her diplomats in the West say. India produces only 15% of its oil requirement from the states of Assam, Gujarat and Mumbai offshore and has to import the rest 85%.

Mineral oil is a necessity for Indians as most of us use fuel for transportation and cooking on a daily basis. India is the world’s largest importer of fuel oil, a tag which India needs to get rid of in the long run. Though India has upped its renewable energy production, fuel oil is still a necessity for most of the common people. India is mostly dependent on Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran for its mineral oil requirement.

Mineral oil from Gulf countries have become expensive after Europe started depending on them in the past few months. Heavy economic sanctions put forward by European and American countries towards Russia have made many countries look for alternatives. Europe’s mineral oil requirement was supplied mostly by Russia and Ukraine. The economic sanctions meant that Europe and America now would have to look at the Gulf countries for oil shipment.

As Europe’s dependence on Arab countries’ oil fields increased, the price of oil also increased. However, Russian oil companies offered discount rates of oil, forcing India to divert a part of her revenue towards Russian oil. Despite logistic costs, the increase in crude oil’s prices day by day means that India has to import Russian oil, despite pressure from the West.

As it happened, Indian oil imports from Russia increased by more than 50 times from 0.2% before the start of the Ukraine-Russia war to over 10% now. Last month, Russia overtook Saudi Arabia to become India’s second-biggest supplier of oil behind Iraq as refiners snapped up Russian crude available at a deep discount following the war in Ukraine. Indian refiners bought about 25 million barrels of Russian oil in May.

Russian oil is also expected to take over much of the Indian oil market in the upcoming days as more and more Russian companies come into the picture. The logistics chain was a major hindrance, requiring oil to be shipped a large distance covering land routes through other countries, and Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. With the establishment of a well-suited logistics chain now, the import of Russian oil is expected to rise many-fold in the upcoming days.

Written – Himadri Paul

Medieval Cities of Europe You can Visit This Summer

Despite being devastated by successive wars, Europe has led the world to modern development. However, there are many cities in Europe, which were never affected by war, and have never lost their medieval charm.

Summer is the best time to visit any place in Europe, and it is also the best time to see these wonderful fairytale cities in their true splendour. Let us look at the cities that even today are the best examples of how the Medieval World was like in Europe.

Rothenburg :

Rothenburg in Germany is like a fairy tale medieval town even today. This south German town has escaped destruction during both the World Wars, and is now a fairy tale land for the tourists.

Brudges :

Brudges of Belgium and its waterway canals are a major tourist attraction all over the world. The city has modernised, with a modern transport system, yet maintains the slow-paced medieval charm in its waterways that crisscrosses throughout the city. Not to forget, the medieval architecture of its buildings is a true wonder.

Lviv :

This eastern European town in Ukraine, which escaped demolition throughout history is under constant threat of bombardment in the ongoing Ukraine-Russian war. Keeping that aside, Lviv has maintained its medieval charm and culture which exists in eastern Europe even to this day.

Lucerne :

This medieval city of Switzerland lies on the edge of Lake Lucerne at the backdrop of the Alps mountain. Its wooden bridge over Lake Lucerne is one of the oldest in the world. The city’s orientation makes it suitable to reach most destinations by a boat, which will take less time than road transport.

Rhodes :

This Greek town lies in a small island off the coast of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea. Rhodes contains medieval castles, walkway roads, beaches and coves, which will make you feel that walking though Rhodes is better than riding a car.

Dubrovnik :

This is another sea-side city, which is also a major port in the Adriatic coast. This south Croatian city is known for its distinctive Old Town, surrounded by massive stone walls, completed in the 16th century.

Bologna :

Bologna is one of those medieval north Italian cities, where the Renaissance started. Bologna is also home to the oldest continuously operated University in the Western World. Today, the historic city centre is a major tourist attraction, and influences cuisine and culture of the world.

Carcassonne :

This is a hilltop town, famous for its medieval citadel, La Cite, surrounded by numerous watchtowers and double-walled fortifications. Going here, you will get a perfect example of how the city dwellers built and defended their cities in the middle ages.

Torun :

Torun is one of the rare cities of Poland which has till date maintained its Old World Charm. This city, by the Vistula river, is known for gingerbread making, which dates back more than a millennium.

Riga :

Set on the Baltic Sea, the Latvian capital of Riga is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its museums, medieval city centre, and the gulf all together contributes to the amazing beauty this city has.

Prague :

The capital of Czechia, Prague is one of the most magnificent medieval cities in the world. Since medieval times Prague has been known for its sprawling market square, its rich culture and roadside music, its modern trams, its medieval castles, and medieval bridges across the Vltava river. Its iconic half-timbered houses, decorated doors and windows, cobbled-stone roads and spires of cathedrals make it one of the prettiest cities in the world.

Edinburgh :

Edinburgh, one of the oldest cities in the UK, is today the capital of Scotland. Its Medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town are both part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Edinburgh Castle and a walk through the city centre will take you to a city, having both old charms and modern vives.

Tallinn :

The capital of Estonia, Tallinn is also one of most picturesque cities in the world. Tallinn’s Old Town, the Baltic Sea and the white-orange colour contrast of buildings, will take you to a fairyland. Tallinn’s access to the Baltic Sea means you can hop on a ferry and visit Helsinki, Riga, St Petersburg, or Stockholm at a short notice.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Picture source – Internet

World Record in Highway Building by NHAI

We have seen the Guiness Book of World Records for many things. Now, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has achieved a world record in building a highway super quickly. NHAI achieved this feat on Tuesday, 7th June 2022, when it created 75 Km of national highway within 5 days, or to be precise 105 hours and 33 minutes.

A total of 720 workers from two NHAI’s private consultant firms Raj Path Infracon Pvt. Ltd. and Jagdish Kadam, both Indian companies, have made the world record possible. The 75-Km highway stretch is a part of the under construction Amravati-Akola Highway. Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, declared on Tuesday, The total length of the 75 kilometres of single lane continuous bituminous concrete road is equivalent to 37.5 kilometres of two-lane paved shoulder road. The work started on June 3, at 7:27 am and was completed on June 7, at 5 pm.

The previous Guinness World Record for the longest continuously laid bituminous was for building 25.275 kilometres of road that was achieved in Doha, Qatar in February 2019 and that task was completed in 10 days. The new record surpassed the previous one by a long margin. The Amravati to Akola section is a part of the under construction NH53, which will provide vital east-west connectivity in the country, connecting important cities of Kolkata, Raipur, Nagpur and Surat.

The latest record will just not stand as a record, and will pave the way for future generations to set their goals to develop the country. This is certainly a proud moment for India in its 75th year of Independence. Still, NHAI needs to keep up the good work going, and not let the progress fall to ruins. We hope that the NHAI and other private and public consultants will make such fast and quality progress in the years to come.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Slow Progress of AC Locals in Cities other than Mumbai

Till date, Mumbai is the only city to have AC local trains. AC locals were introduced in Mumbai way back in 2017, when the Mumbai metro was in its initial stage, and was in no position to compete with the suburban services in the country. Since then, more AC locals have been introduced in Mumbai only, the other cities have not seen introduction of AC locals so far.

Mumbai now has AC locals operating in most of its stations in western, central and harbour lines. AC locals cost some money, but considering the hot and sultry weather throughout the year in Mumbai, the AC locals have been a major boon for the city commuters, who can afford some money at the expense of comfort of travel. So far AC locals have been so popular in Mumbai, that the price of AC locals has now been slashed to half. The AC locals do have a price difference with the normal locals, which is causing some percentage of travellers to avoid it.

The price difference comes as a hurdle to commuters from the fact that people who have already bought tickets for normal locals can not board an AC local. Same is the story for passengers with monthly or yearly passes. This did not cause a hurdle to Kolkata Metro, where both non-AC and AC metros were simultaneously run for a decade as their price was the same. This does not even cause a hurdle to commuters in Kolkata Trams, which are both AC and non-AC as here commuters pay after boarding the tram. This is also not a major hurdle for Hyderabad MMTS, in which a few of the coaches are air-conditioned.

Suburban railways has an excellent network in Kolkata and Chennai, and is also operational in Delhi, Kanpur-Lucknow and Hyderabad in the form of MMTS. Major cities like Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, and Patna do not possess a suburban rail service at all, although they have a good rail network within the limits of the city. Also, most suburban trains in Delhi, Kanpur-Lucknow and Hyderabad are irregular, unreliable, and are not interconnected to other modes of transportation. Proper planning and implementation was lacking among the railways in these cities, for which the local trains are becoming unpopular day by day, causing many routes, like the Delhi Ring Railway to be phased out from use.

With proper planning, suburban railway can be a lifeline for the city commuters as in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. And what the city-dwellers require at present is air-conditioned trains which provide some comfort during summer in the already packed trains. We have also seen how modern metros, with excellent planning, can be a good rapid transit system in cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and Kochi. Since we have a large network of railway lines, and the largest commuting by railways, we surely can come up with modern solutions like introducing AC locals to make commuting faster and cheaper.

Written by – Himadri Paul

How Transportation through Bangladesh may bring North-East India Closer

North-East India, despite being a part of mainland India, is far remote and far more inaccessible than we think. Among the north-eastern states, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and south Assam lie almost entirely on the other side of Bangladesh. The partition of India along religious lines did not favour India her connection with her own north-eastern states.

The narrow chicken’s neck at Siliguri is the only connection between the rest of India and the north-eastern states and parts of north West Bengal. If the Siliguri corridor is blocked for some reason, the entire north-east India gets cut off from the rest of the country. This happens when there is an accident or protests, or terrorists operating in the region, or due to natural calamities. Sikkim is connected to the rest of the country using only one major national highway, which is often blocked during the monsoon due to landslides.

Sikkim Highway to be Widened

Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and south Assam are further disconnected from the rest of the north-east by the Borail range, with only one road and one single rail connection. The Borail range is highly susceptible to landslides and floods, leading to frequent blockades. The same region is much better accessible from Bangladesh, as the border lies entirely in the plains. With both new and old road and rail connections being set up, and even waterways being revived, this region has better connectivity with Bangladesh than the rest of India.

The Agartala-Akhaura rail line, connecting Agartala, the capital of Tripura, with the Comilla region of Bangladesh, is expected to be commissioned soon. Another historic rail line exists between Sylhet and Karimganj, which was responsible for connecting the whole region with Lumding junction, and subsequently to the rest of the Indian Railway network. The single-line passes through the major flood and landslide prone Borail hills, which is as of now closed due to a series of massive flash floods in the state since May 14, 2022. The flood washed away the whole Haflong station, including trains standing in it, and also killed 36 people as of 30th May, 2022.

Haflong Station During Floods in March, 2022

Bangladesh also connects the north-east to the historic port city of Chittagong, offering cheaper trade between north-east India and the rest of the world. Southern Meghalaya region like the Dawki and Cherrapunji are easier accessible from the Bangladeshi side of Mymensingh. The chicken’s neck can be widened if the adjoining Rangpur division of Bangladesh is incorporated into it. The historic Darjeeling Mail, before partition, used to pass majorly through Bangladesh, which even today is the shortest route.

A bus route has been inaugurated to connect Kolkata in West Bengal to Agartala in Tripura through Bangladesh, which takes one-third the original time. Bandhan Express, connecting Kolkata to Khulna and Maitree Express are relaunched after Covid-19. Mitali Express connecting Siliguri with Dhaka is to be launched on 1st June, 2022. Two more routes in Malda and Uttar Dinajpur districts of India are open for freight operations. However, most important road and rail connections between Assam and West Bengal through Bangladesh are still defunct, including the Geetaldaha-Bamanhat-Golakganj section and the Karimganj-Sylhet section.

Mitali Express to be Launched between Siliguri and Dhaka

It is not possible in the short term to make the India-Bangladesh border an open border, or a nearly open border as with Bhutan, or a semi-open border as with Nepal. However, looking in the long term, both Indian and Bangladeshi Governments are thinking of some sort of open borders, or land ports to facilitate easier movement of goods and people from one country to another. The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal motor vehicle agreement may just be the policy required for easier movement of goods. However, for easier movement of people, we need to wait for some more time, as many north-east Indian states are already protesting the massive influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the recent years.

Written by – Himadri Paul