News Wrap


Lack of infrastructure, poor roads, excess vehicle capacity and fluctuating fuel prices are major issues hampering the transport sector in Assam and the entire North East. The port city of Guwahati is a riverine port. The busy Inland Waterways Transport on the Brahamaprutra river, makes Guwahati one of the key logistics hubs in the region. The truck industry provides the critical last-mile connectivity. Though transport is a vital driver of the economy, it is not being considered a major industry. Excess vehicle capacity is affecting the transport industry. Each vehicle costs around Rs 35 lacs, but when the owner desires to sell the vehicle, he gets a rock-bottom price. Road conditions are bad, and highway construction is progressing at a slow pace. The four-lane highways under construction, are never completed on time. Road side amenities, for passengers and drivers, including hygienic food, need to be provided. Ample space for parking luxury buses is lacking.

By 15 March 2020, Indian Oil Retail Sales are expected to reach Assam and North East. IOCL petrol bunks are automated, and the live recording of data is monitered at the IOCL head office to detect any issue, regarding fuel quality and quantity. By end March 2020, Indian Oil hopes to have 100% connectivity, so that quality and quantity are maintained. The transporters need to avoid overloading of vehicles, beyond the axle capacity, especially in hilly terrains. The Inland Waterways Transport plays an important part in mile connectivity, and is the cheapest and most environment friendly mode of transport in the country.

A lecture on the current financial situation in India, that was to be delivered by noted economist Prabhat Patnaik at Visva-Bharati University (West Bengal) on 12 March 2020, has been called off, because the university authorities are not in favour of it. Professor Patnaik was to deliver the Ashok Rudru Memorial Lecture, and had been invited in January 2020. The lecture was instituted in 2019, when Amartya Sen was the Chief Guest, and Prof Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Economics at Berkeley University, was the key speaker. The Memorial Lecture is organised by Visva Bharati's department of Economics and Politics. If the lecture is not held in March 2020, then the fund allotted for it will lapse at end financial year 2019-20. Prof Patnaik, who has taught at Jawarhar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi, is a well known Marxist. Visva Bharati, under the stewardship of Shri Bidyut Chakrabarity, Vice Chancellor, has been inviting right-wing ideologues to deliver lectures. Most recent speakers at the University include Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy, and BJP MP Swapan Das Gupta.

The export credit agencies (ECAs) of G20 countries are currently funneling cash though government-backed financial institutions, to provide $30 billion to foster fuel projects each year, that run counter to the Paris Agreement on climate change. The export credit agencies currently provide more than 10 times more state backed finance to oil, gas and coal projects abroad than they do to renewable energy schemes. ECAs are public entities that provide government backed loans and insurance to overseas businesses. China, Japan, South Korea and Canada are among the worst offenders, accounting for 78% of G20 fossil fuel support from 2016-2018. Japan's ECAs continue to support new coal projects. Canada's ECA is pursing money into tar sands. Many ECAs are jumping at the chance to support LNG in Northern Mozambique and elsewhere. Most ECA funding comes from public coffers. ECAs as public financial institutions help governments pursue trade strategies. Individual countries are able to shroud their investments around them. Though ECA United Kingdom Export Finance has not funded a coal fired power plant since 2002, it is financing millions of ton worth of overseas emissions through continued oil and gas funding.

The number of Americans hurt by an Iranian missile strike in Iraq, on a base housing US soldiers in Iraq's West on 08 January 2020, has risen to 64. Israel in November 2019, assassinated a senior leader of the of the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza, sparking a flare-up in which 36 Palestinians were killed. No Israelis died. On 29 January 2020, from the Gaza Strip, three rockets were fixed at Israel without causing any casualties. Two were intercepted by air defences. Israeli aircraft struck targets in the south of Gaza Strip on 31 January 2020. Israel holds responsible Hamas, the Islamist movement which rules Gaza, for all rocket fire from the territory, regardless of who launches it. Thousands of Russian troops are deployed across Syria, in support of the army, while a contingent of Russian, private security personnel also operates on the ground. Early on 30 January 2020, Russian air strikes hit the town of Ariha, between Maaret al Numan and the city of Idlib to its North, killing ten civilians, as government forces kept up a ground offensive. The strikes hit near a bakery and the Al-Shami clinic. Which is now out of service. Damascus loyalists have retaken the strategic town of Marat al—Numan on 29 January 2020. Rebel—held territory has shrunk to just over half of Idlib province, along with slivers of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia. Across the vast expanse of the desert, Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, hundreds of tents have been erected. A newly arrived squadron of US Air Force F-15E fighters is lined up on the tarmac, flying daily missions over Iraq and Syria. The US troop presence at the Air Base has grown to 2500 since Mid-2019. Two American Patriot missiles batteries scan the skies, prepared to knock down any Iranian attack, against the Saudi Kingdom. Eight Turkish troops and civilians were killed on 03 February 2020 by pro -Syria regime fire in Idlib, the last opposition bastion in the conflict-torn country. Turkey killed at least 135 Syrian government troops in response, in the deadliest clashes since Ankara sent troops to Syria in 2016. In North-Western Idlib province, two of Turkey's observation posts, are behind the pro-Syrian regime lines.

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Vol. 52, No. 38, Mar 22 - 28, 2020