Is Flight Cancellation Effective Against Covid-19?

Due to the recent increase in Covid-19 cases, many international and domestic flights have been cancelled by the respective State Governments. However, not all flights are cancelled, and the decisions taken at the highest level are quite blurred, which may do more harm than good. Though restrictions in localities and cities are working quite well the flight cancellations are neither feasible to stop passengers from reaching their destination, nor can prevent the community herd of a potential third wave.

Omicron cases are rising fast in Mumbai and Delhi. Amid rising cases, some states in India have imposed flight restrictions directly from these two cities. Taking another metropolis, Kolkata as an example, the flights from Mumbai and Delhi to Kolkata have been banned on all days but Monday and Friday. This restriction, according to the Government of West Bengal, is effective in stopping any Omicron wave in Kolkata. International flights directly from the UK, a hotspot of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, have also been suspended some days back.

The first loophole in the system is how flights operating on Monday and Friday can prevent any third wave in Kolkata, while those on the other days cannot. The mandatory quarantine, or tracing of passengers through the Air Subidha app, can be imposed on the travellers. Moreover, the cancellation was announced hours before the flight schedule, causing panic among passengers, leaving them without an option to travel to their destination.

The second, and possibly the biggest loophole lies in the fact that all express trains from Mumbai and Delhi to Kolkata are running, and there are options for bus travel as well. Most importantly, the travellers in trains or buses do not require any vaccination certificate or a negative RT-PCR test before travel. The travellers by flight need to undergo an RT-PCR test upon arrival in Kolkata, and after 8 days of arrival will need to do another RT-PCR test. If both tests turn negative, the travellers still need to spend 14 days in home isolation. No such restrictions are in place for other means of transportation.

The most controversial part is the third loophole, where the travellers from UK, Mumbai, and Delhi are allowed to come to Kolkata via another city. For example, a traveller, instead of coming directly from Mumbai can travel to Ahmedabad and then take a flight to Kolkata, or in the case of Delhi, can arrive via Lucknow. The Government openly declares that UK, Mumbai and Delhi passengers can come via other cities, without undergoing any severe restrictions.

Bhubaneswar and Jharsuguda airports have not applied such controversial restrictions, and have simply made the RT-PCR test mandatory for all arrivals at the airports. Though Covid-19 can still leak out, it is quite a safe and hassle-free measure for all passengers. However, the most urgent thing required now is wearing masks in the public and frequent sanitisation, which is somehow missing from everywhere across India. The good news among all these is that vaccination of children in 15-18 years have kick-started and this hopes to bring down the severity of infection in the children.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Silk Route Market Cities Today

The ancient silk route has been one of the greatest trade routes connecting east and west Eurasia. The ancient cities in the ancient world have still retained their prominence in defining world trade across the land. The surrounding desert and large swathes of inhospitable lands make the Silk Road and its cities an ideal location for resting and trade with locals. Also, most of these cities are crossroads and junctions to travel to various locations. From the strategic and commercial point of view, we have listed here some cities that ruled the trade for thousands of years since the advent of civilization.

Now let us travel from east to west along the silk route and visit the important towns along the Silk Route, which has been declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

1)Xi’an, China

Xi’an, at the far eastern end of the Silk Route, is one of the four ancient capitals of China. Xi’an is located strategically right at the centre of China and forms a junction of different religious and ethnic cultures of ancient China. Not to forget, Xi’an is still a major Chinese tourist hotspot and serves as a stop for tourists visiting anywhere in central and west China.

2)Delhi, India

Delhi, the capital of India is right at the junction of crossroads in India. Delhi is also the crossroads of cultures in India where Mughal influence mixes beautifully with Rajput, Punjabi, Marwari, UP as well as pahari influence. It is also a major hub of tourism and is the administrative centre of India. Delhi is also one of the oldest cities of India, and the seat for various major kingdoms and empires in India. The nearby city of Mathura is also an important Silk Route city.

3)Lahore, Pakistan

Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, is also a major trading hub connecting the Silk route between China and the Arabian Sea. The ancient university of Takshashila lies near the city and was an important stop for pilgrims from Central Asia. Today, Lahore is an important market city and a tourist destination visited by almost every tourist coming to Pakistan.

4)Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Osh is another city in the fertile Fergana Valley which served as a centre of trade since ancient times. Proximity to the border with Uzbekistan makes it a major centre of trade even today. Osh market is still one of the biggest in Central Asia, where a mixed population of Central Asians live.

5)Khujand, Tajikistan

Fertile lands of the Fergana Valley served as a major stop for Silk Route traders, and Khujand is one of the best-preserved sites among them. Khujand is not only a centre of travel but also is a centre of trade between Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries owing to proximity.

6)Turkistan, Kazakhstan

Turkistan lies in south Kazakhstan and was once an important trade outpost on the Silk Route. It still is a major tourist hub of tourists visiting Kazakhstan due to its historic monuments, including Khoja Ahmed Yassavi Mausoleum. Turkestan has grown as an important trading hub and a crossroad marketplace in the modern world.

7)Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The city of Samarkand, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest continuously lived cities in Central Asia. It gained importance for its strategic location and served as a crossroads of various cultures and ethnic groups for centuries.
The Registan, the squares, the markets, the mosques, the gardens, and most importantly, its hospitality and friendly people make it one of the most significant tourist destinations in the world.

8)Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic city centre of Bukhara served as the resting station along the silk route. Bukhara is known for its carpet industry as well as the spice trade. The great minaret, the ark, the pond, and the main bazaar, all served as a centre of tourist attraction along the silk route.

9)Khiva, Uzbekistan

The border town of Khiva is also the hotspot of tourist activity owing to its inner town or Itchan Kala, a World Heritage Site. Khiva is also an important stop along the silk route near the border with Turkmenistan which handles a significant land trade along the ancient Silk Route. Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva form the trio of jewels of Central Asia.

10)Merv, Turkmenistan

The ruins of Merv, one of the ancient capital cities and a major hub of trade, are today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though the city has been abandoned and currently lies in ruins, it is still one of the best-preserved in the Silk Route. The nearby city of Mary serves as the main marketplace and commercial hub of trade in modern-day Turkmenistan today.

11)Tehran, Iran

The capital of Iran, Tehran also lies along the ancient Silk Route. Ray, a suburb of Tehran has been found to contain ruins of an ancient city flourishing as a stopover of tourists. Tehran largely grew around the old city and is now the seat of the throne of the Iran kingdom. Tehran lies at crossroads to various historic and cultural places of Iran. It also acts as a bridge between the maritime routes in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

12)Erbil, Iraq

Erbil is inhabited since antiquity, since ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. The modern city of Erbil lies in the north-east part of Iraq, and is the main city of Kurdish people. Erbil continues to prosper owing to its importance in trade and tourism and its strategic location as a crossroad city. With time, Erbil has matched up with the modern society and is today on of the most modern towns of Iraq.

13)Damascus, Syria

Damascus is possibly the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, inhabited at least 9000 BC. From ancient civilizations to the modern era, Damascus has never lost its importance as the cultural capital of the world. The large markets of Damascus, ancient architecture and its religious importance attracts millions of tourists each year. Being the capital of Syria, it is the seat of administration of modern-day Syria, though to many people Damascus is still the capital of the world.

14)Istanbul, Turkey

Founded by Roman Emperor Constantine, Istanbul is strategically the most important city in the world. It lies on the Bosphorus Strait, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. The city lies in both Europe and Asia continents and serves as a bridge of trade activities. The Hagia Sophia and other mosques, the central market, and the historic city centre all are major tourist attractions in the world. Istanbul is still the biggest centre of cultural and trade activities not only for Turkey but also for major parts of the world.

15)Rome, Italy

Usually considered at the western end of the Silk Road, Rome was the capital of the ancient Roman Empire, and has seen growth during the medieval and modern era as an important centre of civilization. Even today, its importance as sharing cultural, economic and religious aspects has continued to grow, and is still one of the most popular tourist destination around the world. Rome and Italy are still an icon to the rest of the world in terms of cultural activities, architecture and paintings, and most importantly cuisine.

Which of these have you visited or you want to visit? Let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

TCS 25/25 Model

Come 2025, only 25% of TCS employees will work from the office, giving only their 25% time for work. This is the latest announcement regarding working conditions that TCS made. Currently, more than 95% of employees in TCS are working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The transition to the 25/25 model will take some time, before which most or all of the employees will be called back to the office for a short duration.

TCS termed this working model as the new ‘Future Of Work’ and has said that the hybrid models of work are here to stay, where both physical office and remote working will play an integral part. The transition will take around two years from now and will be done in a phased and flexible manner. TCS is looking forward to giving priority to employee satisfaction, which has been seen worldwide to increase productivity and accommodate a higher number of employees than their offices can sustain.

Now, what exactly is the new 25/25 policy? Firstly, TCS has made it clear that employees need not spend more than 25% of their entire day in offices. That is, working 6 hours a day at the office will be enough for an employee henceforth. Also, only 25% of the employees will work from the office simultaneously, while 75% will work remotely. This may hint towards hybrid models of working, but it may also be periodical WFO and WFH. However, TCS hasn’t announced any further details apart from these two details.

Covid-19 pandemic has made us believe work-life balance is an essential factor in our life. India, which is one of the most hard-working nations in the world, has reached its peak capacity of workload. In order to hold back employees, IT companies have started to look for alternatives to make employees work harder. Like in most other places, TCS is taking the first stride towards futuristic work, while other big and small IT companies are looking to follow.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Double Decker Bus in India

Double-decker buses seem to be a bit off-topic when it comes to the mass rapid transit system in big cities. While regular single-decker buses are a common medium of transport for most people, double-decker buses are viewed as a luxury tourist bus, or a festival, or even a movie shooting. Little did most people know that double-decker buses go back to the days of British rule in India when it was cheap transport for the middle-class people across different cities in India.

Kolkata was possibly one of the first cities in India to get double-decker buses. The first double-decker bus ran in 1926 from Kalighat in South Kolkata to Shyambajar in North Kolkata. The next city to get double-decker buses is Mumbai, which has been running these iconic red-painted double-decker buses since at least 1937. The third on the timeline is Thiruvananthapuram since 1938. Hyderabad also got its fleet of double-decker buses when the last Nizam ruler introduced them in the city in the 1940s.

Double-decker Bus in Mumbai

Chennai and Delhi started double-decker bus service quite late in 1975 and 1969 respectively. Both were short-lived and have been replaced by regular buses. Kolkata and Hyderabad both were doing well with the popularity of double-decker buses till the 1990s when they were gradually phased out. The last double-decker buses in Kolkata and Hyderabad were in 2005 and 2004 respectively. Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram on the other hand did well to continue the double-decker bus services albeit in a much lesser number than before.

Road under bridges, flyovers, bridges, rail under bridges, high tension wires, level crossings, as well as narrow, congested sections with sharp turns cause severe limitations to the operational routes of these buses in large cities. Hence these buses have scope to operate in only limited routes, which most of the time are unplanned and unpopular, competing with other means of transport or regular buses. Though a double-decker bus can accommodate a greater number of passengers, in most routes they operate almost empty, incurring heavy operational losses. These limitations, along with age and unavailability of spare parts and low speed, forced state governments to switch over to single-decker buses.

Thiruvananthapuram Double-Decker Bus

As the cityscape changes, double-decker buses also need to get modernised. Most double-decker buses in Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram are old and rusty, creating more pollution and making more noise. Modernising double-decker buses is considered the first step in both Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram. Mumbai’s bus operator, BEST has launched a new initiative to not only replace the existing buses with modern double-decker buses but also make sure they are a sustainable mode of transport for the citizens. These new buses will emit less pollution as they run on BS-6 diesel engines. Thiruvananthapuram has operated double-decker buses mainly in tourist circuits such as Shangumugham beach.

The double-decker buses have a wide potential in satellite towns and suburbs as they have wide roads, hardly any bridges or sharp turns, and are devoid of any height barrier. Kolkata and Hyderabad are looking forward to calling back double-decker buses in streets, especially the satellite town areas. Kolkata has already launched a new open-top double-decker bus for tourism purposes. However, as a mass transport system, it is yet to set the benchmark as it had done previously during British times.

Modern Double-Decker Bus in Kolkata

Cities across the world have called for come back of double-decker buses that may boost tourism, as well as be a mode of local transportation. London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dublin are witnessing a rise in double-decker buses as a mass transportation system. Full AC, open-top, electric, hybrid, trolley are some features of new modern double-decker buses. Soon, with the mix of old and new features, we are looking forward to seeing double-decker buses across Indian streets also.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Renewable Sector Inching Towards the Milestone

The renewable energy sector in India made a sharp increase at the end of the last decade. But the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 became a big stumbling block in its progress to reach the 175 GW goal by 2022. With the increase in prices of fuels and abundant availability of natural resources, the scope of renewable energy in India is vast. The only thing required at this hour is a push from the Government that may eventually start the process of replacing non-renewable resources with renewable resources.

Recently on August 12, 2021, the Government of India announced that it has installed 100 GW of renewable energy without large hydro. This good piece of news came way too late as the last 2 years of renewable energy addition was sluggish. Presently too, it is not showing any encouraging trend in the near future despite the pandemic situation waning in the country.

Solar Panels In India

The target falls way behind the 175 GW target that was set back in 2015. At that time, large hydro was not a part of renewable resources in India. By large hydro, we mean the hydro-electric plants having generating capacity of greater than 25MW. Until mid-2019, large hydro was not a part of the Ministry of New and Renewable but was administered separately as a part of the Ministry of Power. Now, the Indian Government has merged large and small hydro-electric power plants under renewable resources, taking the tally to 146 GW as of August 12, 2021.

Wind Turbines in India

As of October, 2021 according to the Ministry, the renewable energy tally stood at 103.05 GW. The 103.05 GW capacity included 47.66 GW of solar, 39.99 GW of wind, 10.58 GW of biopower and 4.82 GW of small hydro capacity. The rest of nearly 150 GW milestone was covered by large hydro. The Ministry also said that projects of 50.98 GW capacity were at various stages of completion, while projects of 32.06 GW capacity were under various stages of bidding.

Hydro Electric Power Generation Dam in India

As of 30th November 2021, the renewable energy capacity including large hydro reached the milestone of 150 GW, an addition of 4 GW since August. Hence, though it seems that 175 GW is not at all far away, reaching there will take a considerable amount of time unless some drastic measures are taken by the government. However, 2022 has a long way to go, and many sites of hydel, solar, wind and biomass energy have been allocated or auctioned. In a nutshell, despite India being very close to meeting its target of renewable energy, the last lap is still a long way to go.

Written by – Himadri Paul