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

Some Solutions to Combat Delhi Smog

Since the past decade, Delhi has been witnessing one of the world’s worst smog ever in October and November. Diwali and farmers are blamed every year for causing such a hazardous situation for the national capital. However, Delhi shies away from changing itself to solve the problem once and for all. It is easy to put the blame game on others, and do nothing. The Delhi Government has taken some steps to minimize air pollution, but it is usually too little too late.

More than the Delhi Government, the current infrastructure and apathy of the citizens towards the environment of Delhi are more responsible for the Great Smog. Many of Delhi’s power plants are located in the suburbs, which are completely closed during the smog period. Construction work that generates too much fly ash is also halted all across Delhi. Usually, the order from the Government comes after Delhi gets completely engulfed in smog. On the other hand, little changes in lifestyle and infrastructure could have worked better for Delhi, which exists in a place in other parts of the country. Some of them are listed below.

1)Use Delhi Metro :
Delhi metro is one of the quickest, cleanest, and easiest modes of transportation in Delhi. The carbon footprints of Delhi Metro is significantly lower than that of all other transportation. Delhi metro has expanded to connect every nook and corner of the national capital. Delhi metro over the years is increasingly becoming more and more eco-friendly by installing solar panels, providing buses and e-rickshaw, and even taxis for last-mile connectivity. Despite all the good efforts, Delhi metro is yet to attract every commuter across the city owing to its expensive ticketing costs. Kolkata metro may be an example of a cheap metro which attracted commuters from all classes due to its cheap rates.

2)Expand Delhi Suburban Railway :
Similar to the Delhi Metro, Delhi has a good network of railway lines towards the suburban cities of Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Sonipat, and Meerut. However, most of the tracks are used for long-distance trains and freight trains. Delhi has a ring railway which remains completely disused today. Suburban services are unattractive to the citizens, having little or no interchange with major bus or metro stops. Delhi does not have a monorail, tram, or any other form of transit other than the metro. Thus reliant on the usage of roads is heavy, causing huge traffic jams. Local trains of Mumbai are a good example of how suburban railways are used by a large chunk of the city population.

3)Lack of Greenery :
Delhi never used to lack greenery despite being the capital of various dynasties and empires. The Mughals and even the British were fond of gardens and open spaces which serves not only as a place for recreation but also as a source of fresh air and oxygen. Delhi today has grown beyond its borders and has eaten down even the small pockets of greenery that remained. Today only the southern parts of Delhi have some open space, where big, old trees are being felled for fields, locally called maidans, for sports and yoga. Nearby cities like Chandigarh, Jaipur and Agra have significantly less pollution due to large areas of natural vegetation within the city boundaries.

4)Unreliable Bus Service :
Bus service across the city is not that reliable either, prompting most people to use either private cars or bikes for transportation. Private cars and bikes are the biggest sources of air pollution in the city. Chennai has an excellent network of bus service catering 80% of the local transportation. Buses in Delhi are usually off-route, unfriendly, infrequent, and irregular, apart from being expensive, causing most of the population to stay away from using them.

5)Promotion of Green Fireworks :
No steps have been taken by the Government to stop the sale of banned fireworks, which cause too much pollution. Green fireworks, on the other hand, release significantly lower amounts of pollutants, thus can curb the sudden spike in pollution levels just after Diwali. As green fireworks are a bit on the pricier side, most sellers do not sell them to attract more customers. The Government, instead of promoting green fireworks and banning the illegal, is confused about what rules to apply. Banning illegal fireworks and promoting green fireworks comes way too late when most crackers are sold, and the crackers are unclassified whether illegal or not. Assam and the north-eastern states are doing well in this regard strictly allowing only green fireworks to be sold.

We all need to join hands and save our environment. Can you suggest some measures to do so? Tell us in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Partial Lockdown vs Complete Lockdown Conditions

As the second wave of Covid-19 wrecks havoc in many states, there is again the need for a lockdown phase 2. This time first partial lockdown was imposed, which was expected to slow down the spread of the virus. But the reality was just the opposite. Hence complete lockdown was imposed in most states. The importance of lockdown during Covid-19 times was felt as the second wave has started to decrease from a peak value. So why was complete lockdown not imposed as soon as the number of cases rose? Let us now compare between partial and complete lockdown and understand which solution is more practical. Note that lockdown itself is not enough to save you. Instead, everyone has to strictly follow all Covid-19 guidelines and maintain good health and hygiene.

In lockdown phase 1, when the whole country underwent a strict and complete lockdown, much middle class lost their means of livelihood, the people suffered a lot, and the migrant workers and students got stuck in unknown places. Thus the Government does not want to impose such stringent measures around the country that may impact most citizens. This time around, the states were asked to impose partial or complete lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. So many states imposed a partial lockdown when the number of cases started rising. However, it didn’t work out at all due to the negligence of the citizens. Let us now see why partial lockdown failed in most regions.

Partial lockdown hardly reached anybody’s ears. It has become a norm that as long as the police do not arrest anybody, it is safe to disobey Government rules and regulations in lockdown. The Governments are to be blamed as well. The Kumbha Mela at Haridwar turned out to be the biggest super spreader of Covid-19 in the world. People from all over the country gathered at Haridwar to take a bath in the Holy Ganga during Kumbha Mela. Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand happened to be the primary source of the Mumbai strain of the Sars-Cov-2 virus after Mumbai. Also to be blamed are the election rallies in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam that accounted for a significant outbreak of the virus in these states. The markets are to be blamed as well. There was a sudden urge of everybody to go out shopping, and in February and March, people behaved as if there was never any pandemic situation here. The Chaitra sale in Kolkata looked as if pre-pandemic times had returned. Schools reopened only to be shut down immediately due to teachers and students getting affected.

Amidst all these, Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow were the worst affected cities that faced a severe oxygen crisis. The travellers were by far responsible for spreading the virus to some metropolitan cities and rural countryside. Today, a chunk of the country’s population are migrant workers, and a significant number of middle-class families are tourism-lovers. The Bengal strain, an escape immunity variant of Sars-Cov-2, had actually spread in January 2021, when the tourism-lovers visited tourist places and workers migrated to other states for work when lockdown restrictions were lifted.

However, complete lockdown instead of partial lockdown worked in favour of curbing the spread of coronavirus. It is evident from the figures that peak was achieved in many states in mid-May, and the number of cases has declined since. Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu have battled the coronavirus and are now looking forward to easing lockdown restrictions. However, this time the Government is not taking it lightly, as the severity of the second wave forced the Government and the citizens to be aware of an even more destructive third wave shortly. Also, vaccination drive has hoped to limit the damage caused by Sars-Cov-19 in the body.

With Bengal, Odisha, Assam and some other states yet to reach their peak caseload, it is expected that despite easing situations in other parts, these states still have to maintain their lockdown restrictions to minimize further damage by Covid-19. One of the best practical moves is creating awareness and enforcing a few conditions for a few more weeks so that there is not much congestion of people in a particular area. Limitation of market hours, refrain from rallies, festivals, and gatherings, restriction of people’s movement through public transport are good options. The Home-delivery system should be increased and implemented in as many fields as possible. Virtual conferences, online classes, and work from home should be a part of the new normal until the virus is eliminated from the country. If China can do it, New Zealand can do it, Australia and some other countries can do it, then we Indians can do it as well.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Oxygen Express Amid Rising Covid-19 Cases

The second wave of Covid-19 has hit India very hard. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is seen in a large percentage of affected persons. SARS patients need oxygen supply for survival before their immune system becomes resistant to the disease. As a record number of SARS patients are admitted to hospitals, hospitals are facing a shortage of oxygen.

As the situation turned bad to worse, several states of India are reporting a shortage of oxygen supply. City hospitals in the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh have critically low oxygen levels and are in dire need of medical oxygen. Supply from neighbouring states is also being blocked due to rising Covid-19 cases in them. Thus the only way out remains that medical oxygen is brought from oxygen manufacturing industries located in heavily industrialized areas far away from the Covid-19 hotspots.

In such a dire situation, the Centre has decided to run oxygen express which are goods trains carrying oxygen from one place to another. Flat wagons used in goods trains are used as roll-on-roll-off, where oxygen tanker trucks are rapidly loaded and discharged. Due to electrified sections, there is a height limitation for which only short height tankers, T-1618 of height 3.32 metres, are used for this purpose. The capacity of each tanker is 15,000 litres of liquid medical oxygen.

Oxygen in cryogenic state is a hazardous chemical for transport, and hence railways have to check the pressure in each tankers regularly. There are limitations in the speed of the train, acceleration and braking, and also limitation of routes as these trains cannot operate in ghat sections. Yet, railways have taken it as a challenge, mapped the entire route, trained the officials in new requirements, and made new ramps overnight.

The first Oxygen Express goods train started from Kalamboli near Mumbai to fetch liquid medical oxygen (LMO) from Vizag in Andhra Pradesh. A longer route via Vasai was planned to avoid the ghat sections that fall in Central Railways routes. The first oxygen express took 50 hours to do the job. The journey started with 7 tankers from Vizag, while 3 were unloaded at Nagpur, the rest reached Nashik Road railway station on Saturday morning, 24th April.

The second Corona express brought oxygen from Bokaro in Jharkhand to Lucknow. The train made a halt at Varanasi, where one truck was offloaded, and the remaining two trucks were dispatched through a green corridor between Varanasi and Lucknow. The goods train has reached Lucknow on 24th April, and the trucks were immediately sent to hospitals to stem the severe oxygen crisis in the city.

More states have demanded oxygen transportation via oxygen trains. Delhi, which has seen one of the worst pandemic situations ever, is about to get more than 70 tonnes of oxygen from Raigarh in Chhattisgarh. The first oxygen train to Delhi has reported having arrived at Delhi as of 27th April. Subsequently, more trains are planned to Delhi from Angul, Rourkela in Odisha and Durgapur in West Bengal. A second oxygen express has also reached Maharashtra from Hapa, Gujarat. Andhra Pradesh has also asked for a train from Angul to Vijaywada.

Corona Express has come to rescue India, where Covid-19 patients were dying for want of oxygen. More oxygen trains in the coming days hope to relieve the oxygen crisis in the country by a big margin. In such difficult times, it is required for all to co-operate, follow Covid-19 protocols, stay at home unless urgent, and thus save the lives of thousands of fellow Indians all across the country.

Written by – Himadri Paul