Historic and Present Day Land Ports in India

Historically, a significant portion of travel was through the land ports. The ancient silk route from China to Europe and south Asia resulted in many land ports along the northern border of India. As parts of Pakistan too were under Indian kingdoms historically, it is important to suggest their names as well.

The historic Gandhara region of India has prospered owing to trade between Indian kingdoms and Chinese kingdoms. Taxila and Peshawar were important centres of land port in ancient India. Taxila was important for trade with China, while Peshawar was important for that with erstwhile Afghans. Both continued to flourish in the ancient and middle ages and even today Peshawar is an important city of north-west Pakistan. Taxila was important historically for spreading Buddhism to China and other parts of east Asia, which is evident from the records of early Chinese travellers like Hiuen Tsang and Fa Hien.

Both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir were important trade hubs in ancient times. Srinagar was an important trade hub with China, and Central Asia during major parts of history. Far north, Gilgit served and even today is serving as a major crossroad trade between south, central and east Asia. Leh, for its part, played an important role in trade and cultural exchanges between Tibet region of China and Ladakh region of India.

Sikkim and north Bengal was the next important region to be benefitted by the Silk Route. The Nathu La and Jelep La passes open up trade routes between Siliguri and Kalimpong towns to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet region. Tawang and Bomdila of Arunachal Pradesh too formed important land ports with the historical Tibet region, preserving the local culture and boosting the economy.

These historic land ports, with the exception of Gilgit, no longer have that importance as they had during pre-independent India. Partition, as well as subsequent India-China war. Though some of them, like Peshawar and Srinagar have grown up to be big cities, with rich culture from the past connections, trade and connectivity with other countries is mostly absent. However, some landports like Siliguri and Kalimpong may again become functional with the opening of the Nathu La pass. Siliguri is still an important land port today at the Bangladesh border.

Present day land ports are with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. These serve as the border cities between India and its neighbours. The major land ports of India at the Nepal border are Forbesganj, Raxaul, Jainagar, and Nautanwa and Nanpara. Bhutan has only one major land port at Hasimara. Bangladesh has the longest border with India, and also the highest number of transit points. Bangaon, Malda, Raiganj, Siliguri in West Bengal, Dhubri, Karimganj in Assam, Agartala, Sabroom in Tripura are major land ports of India along the Bangladesh border.

Landlocked countries like Nepal and Bhutan are immensely benefited from the land ports with India. Trade and travellers from Bangladesh have received a major boost in eastern parts of the country owing to the land ports. Bangladesh also has several rail connections with India, some of them operational, which has helped these land ports to develop and heighten the cultural ties between the two countries.

Most of us have come across airports and seaports. Few of us have heard about land ports, many of which exist in India also. However, land ports are most important in trade and commerce as well as cultural exchanges in neighbouring countries.

Historically, a significant portion of travel was through the land ports. The ancient silk route from China to Europe and south Asia resulted in many land ports along the northern border of India. As parts of Pakistan too were under Indian kingdoms historically, it is important to suggest their names as well.

The historic Gandhara region of India has prospered owing to trade between Indian kingdoms and Chinese kingdoms. Taxila and Peshawar were important centres of land port in ancient India. Taxila was important for trade with China, while Peshawar was important for that with erstwhile Afghans. Both continued to flourish in the ancient and middle ages and even today Peshawar is an important city of north-west Pakistan. Taxila was important historically for spreading Buddhism to China and other parts of east Asia, which is evident from the records of early Chinese travellers like Hiuen Tsang and Fa Hien.

Both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir were important trade hubs in ancient times. Srinagar was an important trade hub with China, and Central Asia during major parts of history. Far north, Gilgit served and even today is serving as a major crossroad trade between south, central and east Asia. Leh, for its part, played an important role in trade and cultural exchanges between Tibet region of China and Ladakh region of India.

Sikkim and north Bengal was the next important region to be benefitted by the Silk Route. The Nathu La and Jelep La passes open up trade routes between Siliguri and Kalimpong towns to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet region. Tawang and Bomdila of Arunachal Pradesh too formed important land ports with the historical Tibet region, preserving the local culture and boosting the economy.

These historic land ports, with the exception of Gilgit, no longer have that importance as they had during pre-independent India. Partition, as well as subsequent India-China war. Though some of them, like Peshawar and Srinagar have grown up to be big cities, with rich culture from the past connections, trade and connectivity with other countries is mostly absent. However, some landports like Siliguri and Kalimpong may again become functional with the opening of the Nathu La pass. Siliguri is still an important land port today at the Bangladesh border.

Present day land ports are with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. These serve as the border cities between India and its neighbours. The major land ports of India at the Nepal border are Forbesganj, Raxaul, Jainagar, and Nautanwa and Nanpara. Bhutan has only one major land port at Hasimara. Bangladesh has the longest border with India, and also the highest number of transit points. Bangaon, Malda, Raiganj, Siliguri in West Bengal, Dhubri, Karimganj in Assam, Agartala, Sabroom in Tripura are major land ports of India along the Bangladesh border.

Landlocked countries like Nepal and Bhutan are immensely benefited from the land ports with India. Trade and travellers from Bangladesh have received a major boost in eastern parts of the country owing to the land ports. Bangladesh also has several rail connections with India, some of them operational, which has helped these land ports to develop and heighten the cultural ties between the two countries.

Written by – Himadri Paul

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

Offbeat Cruise Routes in India

Cruise is fast becoming one of the prime activities of tourism. Though travelling by road or rail seems far better in enjoying the landscape, there are several cruise routes in India where beauty is breathtaking. Inland cruise is an excellent option to explore the rural beauty of our country. Cruise is one of the best options when it comes to spending a leisure luxury travel with little to arrange on our own.

Let us now explore some amazing routes that India has to offer.

1)Mumbai to Goa Cruise :

Jalesh Cruise operating between Mumbai and Goa

This is one of the most popular choices of a cruise in India, among nationals and foreigners alike. It is a sea voyage parallel to the Konkan coast that takes around 12 hours. Several luxury world-class ships operate in this route. More than the natural beauty, this cruise offers a high degree of luxury that boasts of providing you with everything you aspire to while travelling. The route passes through the ruins of Maratha forts by the sea, which has been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list.

2)Kochi to Lakshadweep Sea Voyage :

Kochi to Lakshadweep MV Kavaratti Cruise

This is an excellent deep sea ride to the coral islands of India, the Lakshadweep. The pristine beauty of small coral islands, dotted with coconut trees, white sandy beaches, and brilliant blue water, will attract a huge number of tourists. The journey lasts 14-18 hours. However, the ships here are more for transportation of the locals and yet to be made ultra-luxury to attract the rich tourists.

3)Kerala Backwaters :

House Boat in Kerala Backwaters

Boating and staying at houseboats of Ashtamudi and Vembanad Lakes offer breathtaking views of the landscape of God’s Own Country, Kerala. House boating is famous in Alappuzha, which is known by the name Venice of the East. The ancient port city of Kollam also provides staying in a luxury houseboat. Houseboats of Kerala are luxurious and affordable at the same time.

4)Sundarbans Cruise :

Kolkata to Sundarbans Cruise

Cruise inside the world’s largest mangrove forest is itself an enchanting experience. While motorboats are affordable to the locals for daily transportation, there are also small but luxury ships that take you through the mystic water channels deep into the forest. Chances of seeing tigers, crocodiles, and deer are high from watch-towers and also from the cruise itself. The journey starts from Kolkata and lasts 2-4 days, depending on the tour package.

5)Brahmaputra Ride :

Assam Cruise through Bramhaputra River in MV Mahabahu

River cruise through the majestic Brahmaputra river no doubt offers an experience on its own. The stretch between Jorhat and Guwahati is navigable all year and is frequently visited by tourists. Majuli island, the world’s largest river island, and the Kaziranga National Park fall in the journey where the tourists can enjoy the rich biodiversity in north-east India.

So, which cruise are you thinking about next? Do let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Economy 3AC Coaches in Indian Railways

Indian Railways have now started producing Economy AC 3-tier coaches in the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. Under the new interior design, the number of seats will increase per coach from 72 to 83. This will result in an increased number of passengers boarding the same train. The question is, will it not reduce the leg space, or will it bring comfort to the boarding passengers. Read this article to know more.

AC 3-tier is the most profitable coach type for Indian Railways when it comes to revenue from passenger traffic. Hence, Indian Railways is giving no stone unturned to explore new ways of providing passenger comfort, and giving greater chances to occupy a 3AC seat. Over the years, modern LHB coaches have provided more seats in a train than older ICF coaches. Railway engineers have found out a major flaw in AC rakes on which they have started modification. This new economy 3AC class is a result of correcting the design flaw.

3AC Interior Bunks

AC coaches require switch gears, transformers and other electrical devices which eat up a lot of space inside the coaches. Engineers have now planted these devices under the coaches, suspending them from the bottom of the coaches between the bogies. It freed up enough space for the addition of another 11 seats in AC 3-tier coaches. This will not compromise on the leg or luggage space previously available to the passengers. The same formula can be applied to AC 2-tier coaches, chair car and AC First Class coaches, which may increase their capacity. For a trial, this has been applied only to 3AC coaches as these are the most profitable coaches of Indian Railways attracting a lot of passengers, who want to put a lot of expenses, and at the same time get good facilities as well.

Moreover, no extra profit will be earned by the Railways, as the prices of Economy 3AC coaches will reduce by 8% of normal 3AC coaches. The reduction in fare of 3AC coaches will attract more passengers who previously travelled in only the non-AC sleeper class. In the long term, the loss-prone non-AC sleeper and second seating class will be completely replaced by profitable AC coaches, be it chair car or sleeper. The economic coaches, being new, will have modern amenities like personal reading lights, personal AC outlet, personal charging socket, which are essential requirements to most passengers.

3AC COach Toilet

Will all these attract more people to take the train to their travel destinations? The initial results of revamping rail coaches with modern facilities have been a success. The Prayagraj-Jaipur express is the first train to get Economy 3AC coaches in view of demand. 2 more trains, New Delhi-Lucknow AC special and Lucknow Mail, will be allotted Economy 3AC coaches very soon. So plan your next ride in an Economy 3AC coach with a flushed interior and reduced price to your next travel destination.

Written by – Himadri Paul