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

Cleaning the Ghats of Kolkata – Part 2

This is part 2 of the series. To read about part 1, click here.

In the part 1 of the series, we have seen how we have polluted the ghats of Kolkata, which had for many decades been the lifeline of the city, through its water transport, providing drinking water, and having historical and religious sites. However, we ourselves are responsible for not maintaining the ghats, leading them to be shabby and dilapidated, making them a place for garbage dump, and a breeding area of mosquitoes. However, as we are looking at the western world, how they are maintaining cities, some of which have been raged to the ground, awareness is spreading among the masses in and around Kolkata.

We have looked at how several committees within the city are looking forward to making Kolkata a cleaner and greener city. While the authorities have done a wonderful job in the Newtown and to some extent salt lake area, such could not be made possible without the awareness of the public around the crowded old town, which lies at the bank of the river. While a rich section of the society is aware about cleaning the ghats of Kolkata, most common people, especially those living near the river are not. It is up to the committees, to spread the news of keeping the environment clean.

Some committees like Y-East and Bouddi have initiated a cleanliness drive along the ghats of Kolkata. They have engaged over 100 local people to clean up some of the well-known ghats of Kolkata. For more information about that matter, visit https://www.y-east.org/diary/bouddi-and-y-east-begin-hooghly-river-clean-up-project-in-kolkata/ Y-East and Techno Main Salt Lake college has also organized a Plogging competition around the city, helping with the cause. Schools like Delhi Public School in Kolkata also campaigned to spread awareness to keep the Hooghly river clean. There are some Facebook groups and communities where like minded people come together to save the Hooghly river flowing past Kolkata. We all need to come together and make Kolkata a clean and green city to live.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Places in India to Witness the Advent of Spring

Spring season is welcomed in India with a seasonal festival. Spring marks the end of the harsh, cold winter, and the beginning of a warm sunny summer. Spring is the time, when the trees are filled with new leaves and flowers. Viewing blossoms is viewed as an important festival in many parts of the world, the most notable among which is cherry blossom in Japan. Though we have followed Japan and started some kind of festival in big cities, we always have cherished our own spring blossoms. Let us now look at a few places in India where we can witness trees in full bloom at the advent of spring.

1)Kashmir :

No doubt the Vale of Kashmir has to be in the list. Kashmir is situated in the northernmost part of India, where winters are harsh. Hence, the advent of spring is viewed as an important festival by the Kashmiris. The almond trees first burst into blossoms, followed by apple, cherry, and chestnut. The Tulip Garden of Srinagar gets filled with thousands of tulips at this time. It, along with other Mughal Gardens, attract tourists from all over the country and abroad.

2)Sikkim :

Sikkim is the least populated state in India, but is one of the most diversifying ecological hotspots in the country. Rhododendron and orchids cover up the hilly state at the advent of spring. The Yumthang valley of North Sikkim burst into flowering at this time, and it is thus popularly known as the Valley of Flowers. As the weather remains pleasant during this time, with little rainfall, tourists throng in thousands to this wonderful little state of India to witness spring at its full grandeur.

3)Purulia :

Tucked away in the western corner of West Bengal, the splendour of Purulia is best witnessed during spring, when the Palash trees are full of orange-red, flame-like flowers. With development of tourism in Purulia in recent years, tourists have started visiting remotest parts of Bengal villages, to witness the advent of spring. Rabindranath Tagore, during his stay at Shantiniketan, liked the Palash bloom in the area, and gave rise to Basanta Utsav in Shantiniketan.

4)Ladakh :

In the cold desert landscape of Ladakh, we have the apricot blossom in spring. In Leh and Kargil regions, winter snow makes way for apricot trees to burst into blossoms as the temperatures turn less harsh during spring. Though the locals have enjoyed apricot blossoms for centuries, Ladakh is a bit cut off from the rest of India due to snow in high mountain passes along the route. Leh is however, connected to Delhi via flight services, thus helping tourists reach there and witness the landscape of pink and white apricot flowers in the midst of brown hills and blue skies.

5)Manipur :

Giant Himalayan Lily, a flowering plant with huge flowers bloom at the advent of spring in the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur. Small villages like Liyai Khullen village in Senapati district are filled with majestic blooms of these giant flowers in late spring. Though Manipur is an off-beat tourist spot in India, nevertheless, the state has much to offer, and if we have some festival like that of cherry blossoms in Meghalaya, we will surely see a large influx of tourists in this quiet, picturesque state.

Have you witnessed any of these blossoms? Let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Downfall of Congress and Rise of New Parties in India

Since its inception, the Indian National Congress party had a stronghold in almost every nook and corner of India. This has been the case till the turn of the century, when Atal Bihari Bajpayee led the NDF to power. That however, did not last long and Congress was once again back in power with Manmohan Singh in the lead as the Prime Minister. Since the 2014 elections, the Congress is on a rapid downslide, and is fast losing its power in major states of India.

After heavy defeat at 2014 parliamentary elections, Congress made a comeback in 2018 in some states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka. Just when it was looking like Congress may get a slight edge over BJP, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections showed a one-sided election game with BJP retaining all major BJP-led states, and gaining foothold in areas where it had few followers. Bengal and Odisha were two states, where the BJP made significant presence within a matter of days. Punjab and Kerala were the only places where the INC showed some presence. Since then, it has only fared worse, losing even the states where there is no sign of BJP. The Left-Front retained power in Kerala while the recent Punjab elections saw Congress reduced to a mere regional party with insignificant presence in front of AAP. Neither Congress could stop BJP to snatch power in Goa where it performed the best, yet far below the expectations.

BJP has left its presence all across India, not only in the larger states, but also several smaller states. Major parts of north-east India are now BJP-controlled, with several local parties backing the BJP Government against Congress. Manipur, previously a stronghold of Congress, could not stop the massive success of BJP with the support of local parties like Naga People’s Front (NPF) and National People’s Front (NPP). BJP with 32 seats fared better than the majority, and with NPF and NPP backing with 5 and 7 seats respectively. Congress got 11 seats out of 40 in Goa, and with all other smaller parties backing, might have an outside chance of forming the Government, like how BJP came to power in 2017 Goa elections. But with MGP backing the BJP, history repeated as BJP retained power in Goa.

Punjab saw a new party rising in the midst of ashes left by Congress. The rise of AAP to an overwhelming majority in Punjab means the Congress has probably lost its last base in Punjab. But the worst for the Congress was in UP, where it was reduced to a mere 2 seats out of 403 seats. There is hardly any chance that Congress will come back in UP, with the rise of Samajwadi Party (SP) as the principal opposition to BJP. Despite the SP playing better than ever, BJP is way ahead of it by a huge margin. Uttarakhand, however, did not witness a opposition to counter the BJP, and Congress alone couldn’t make much of an impact.

Congress itself cannot pose a threat to BJP in the upcoming 2024 Parliamentary election. It is the rise of local parties like SP, AAP, Shiv Sena, BJD, RJD and TMC in various states of India which will make the BJP play its decisive strategy. Again, for those who oppose the current BJP regime, the recent elections have proved that BJP is not going anywhere. It has far more support and possesses far stronger leadership than most other political parties imagine.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Impact of Indian Defence Industry on Russia-Ukraine War

The Russia-Ukraine war erupted on the evening of 24th February, 2022 and is currently on-going in Ukraine. Its impact has been felt widely around the globe and India too is not an exception. Russia has been the main contributor of advanced defence weapons and training programmes of the Indian defence since independence. Hence, it is necessary for India to have backup plans in case the Russia-Ukraine war escalates into a global World War III.

Why India needs to import weapons?

The Indian defence consists of 3 main wings – Army, Navy and Air Force. Despite having the largest number of soldiers and armed men in uniform in the world, India still lags behind in its weapon industry. While India manufactures most of its defence weapons, for advanced technical weapons, she has to import from Russia, Israel, France or even the US. The weapons have modernised in the modern world, involving technologies like artificial intelligence and integrated circuits, to enhance precision, damage, and self-defense. India has lagged a bit in this industry, despite having hostile neighbours, who are ready to plunge an attack into Indian territories. Russia and Israel formed crucial partners of India to maintain the Indian defence as par with most other developed countries.

How Ukraine-Russia war can affect our defence industry?

We have both short term and long term consequences here. In the short term, most of the deliveries of weapons from Russia are likely to be delayed. The delivery of the long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system S-400 Triumf ‘SA-21Growler’ could get delayed if the war continues. The delivery started in December last year and is expected to be completed by 2025, but the war is likely to postpone it, and in the worst case, may cancel it. The production of AK-203 riles is likely to get slower, and acquiring them from Russia right now is even tougher. Two Grigorovich-class ‘Project 1135.6’ frigates for the navy are in the middle of construction at a shipyard in Russia. Its delivery will most likely be hampered by the war. Even the products which are ready faces hurdles in the payment system, as Russia has been banned from SWIFT, the main International Banking System.

Is there any impact due to the long term consequences?

The long term consequences will be far worse for India for which India needs to change its strategy from being entirely dependent on Russia on its military strength. In the long term, as US and other European countries are also defence partners of India, India cannot sign a pact or deal with Russia in terms of defence. Any kind of bonding with Russian defence will raise suspicion among the western countries, which may isolate India similar to what Russia has been facing currently. No military drill, technology transfer, or joint exercise can be conducted between the countries during the aftermath of war. Russia, being an ally of China for years, will likely remain neutral in case of an attack from China in Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh. However, the current infrastructure does not permit India to sever all defence ties with Russia, as India faces threats from the west, the north and even the military jungta regime in the east.

So, what is the solution?

The short term solution is to abstain from voting in the UN and side with neither NATO nor Russia. The long term solution is ‘Atmanirbhar’ in defence. ‘Atmanirbhar’ means self-dependent, which likely will reduce dependency of Indian defence to foreign countries. However, it is easier said than done. India need to produce up-skilling in various technology fields, need good leadership in defence drills and trainings, and also produce all or most of the raw materials. As the Prime Minister of India said, we are moving towards being ‘Atmanirbhar’ in the near future, India’s prime focus of being self-dependent should now be on the defence industry.

Written by – Himadri Paul