Bhubaneswar: All are on high energy to ring out the old and ring in the new with the passage of time. With welcoming the new year with optimism during COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important to look back at the outgoing year that was filled with paradigm-shifting events.
From the ruling BJP’s poll debacle to tragic death of CDS General Bipin Rawat in an IAF chopper crash, India witnessed noteworthy events in galore in this turbulent year.
Here’s the recap of top 15 events that grabbed country’s attention in 2021:
1. CDS General Bipin Rawat in IAF chopper crash
December 8, 2021, could be tagged as the ‘Dark Day’ of India, with loss of 13 great lives in an Indian Air Force (IAF) chopper crash. Entire country mourned the sudden death of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other defence dignitaries. General Rawat along with his wife Madhulika Rawat was on board the IAF’s ill-fated hi-tech Mi-17V-5 helicopter that crashed near Coonor in Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. Besides, 11 others were also declared dead at an Army hospital. Group Captain Varun Singh, who was the lone survivor of the chopper crash and had been battling for his life at the Air Force Command Hospital in Bengaluru, also succumbed to injuries. He died on December 15.
2. Civilians killed by Army in Nagaland
Army operation in Nagaland turned uglier as 15 civilians and one solder were killed in a botched ambush and retaliatory violence in Nagaland’s Mon district on December 4.
Just four days before tragic chopper crash killing CDS General Bipin Rawat, a special unit of the Army ‘mistakenly’ opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from Tiru area to their village Oting, killing six on board on December 4 evening. Seven more civilians and one security trooper died when the villagers expressing outrage over the gunshots and deaths of their brethren clashed with troops later in the evening. Following the incident, protests erupted across Nagaland demanding to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
3. Three controversial farm laws scrapped and farmers withdraw year-long protest
Agitating farmers started celebration across the country after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a television address on November 19 apologised to the farmers and announced repealing of three controversial farm laws following a year long protest in borders of Delhi.
Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021 without any debate on the first day of winter session of Parliament on November 29.
The farmers ended a year of mass protests and started returning to their homes from December 12 after the Centre scrapped three farm bills.
The farmers had been protesting on the Delhi borders for over a year demanding to repeal three farm laws — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
The protest turned violent when thousands of farmers against the agricultural reforms descended on historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Republic Day (January 26). The protestors had scaled the historic walls breaking through the police barricades on their tractors to hoist their own flag at Red Fort.
The Delhi Police in its chargesheet revealed that there was a conspiracy to capture the Red Fort and make it the new site of farmer protest against the three new farm laws.
4. Miss Universe title
Harnaaz Sandhu made India proud after she was crowned Miss Universe 2021 at the 70th Miss Universe 2021 held at Eilat, Israel, on December 12. The 21-year-old model from Chandigarh won the title beating Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira and South Africa’s Lalela Mswane. India once again shone in the beauty pageant and brought back the title for the third time after a gap of 21 years. Earlier, Sushmita Sen and Lara Dutta had won the coveted title in 1994 and 2000 respectively.
5. Lakhimpur Kheri violence
On October 3, three cars rammed into protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. Two of these cars belong to union minister Ajay Kumar Misra Teni. Eight persons including four farmers died in a violence that erupted during the farmers’ protest. According to reports, the demonstration was being staged opposing Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya’s visit to Banbirpur. The farmers’ body claimed that four farmers identified as Nakshatra Singh, Daljeet Singh, Lavepreet Singh and Gurvinder Singh died after being mowed down by vehicles on the Tikunia-Banbirpur road. Four others, who died in the incident, were said to be the supporters of the BJP. They were allegedly dragged out of a car in which they were travelling and lynched by the protesters.
The incident triggered sharp reactions from different quarters. The farmers alleged that Union Minister Ajay Misra’s son Ashish Misra was in one of the vehicles that ran over the protestors. Based on allegations, Ashish Mishra was booked on murder charges in the FIR filed in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case.
6. Oxygen Crisis during 2nd wave of COVID pandemic
The devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic caused India’s healthcare system to disintegrate. In the months of April and May, hospitals around the country ran out of oxygen for which the COVID patients died due to oxygen shortage. In view of this, many firms as well as the State Governments set up oxygen plants on a war footing to save precious lives in fight against deadly COVID-19.
7. Tata regains control of Air India after 70 years
Air India returned to Tata after 70 years after the Government of India approved the sale of the national carrier to Talace Private Limited, a Special-Purpose Vehicle of Tata Sons. The Tata Group will pay Rs 18,000 crore to acquire Air India from the government. Of this, 15% will go to the government and the rest will go toward clearing debt. The airline will be transferred to the Tata Group with a debt of Rs 15,300 crore. The government will fund the carrier until the handover. The complete transfer of the airline to Tata was likely to be completed by end of December 2021. However, media reports stated that the process may get delayed.
8. Cyclones that hit Indian coasts in 2021
Cyclone Tauktae: Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Tauktae was a deadly tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea that made landfall in Gujarat coast on May 17. Tauktae continued intensifying into May 15, reaching severe cyclonic storm status later that day. It affected the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, before intensifying into a very severe cyclonic storm, early on May 16. Early on May 17, Tauktae intensified into an extremely severe cyclonic storm and hit near the coast of Gujarat later in the day. The cyclone triggered heavy rainfall and flash floods in the areas along the coast of Kerala, Lakshadweep, Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra. As many as 169 people died in the cyclone and 81 went missing. It also caused devastation in Pakistan with 5 casualties.
Cyclone Yaas: Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Yaas had brought significant impacts to Odisha and West Bengal during late May. It made landfall in Odisha and brought significant impacts to West Bengal during late May 2021. The system over the Bay of Bengal became severe cyclonic storm on May 24. Yaas crossed the northern Odisha coast around 20 km south of Balasore at its peak intensity as a very severe cyclonic storm on May 26. More than 4,500 villages were affected and various agricultural lands were hard-hit in West Bengal due to the cyclone. Odisha was worst affected with 120 villages being flooded and damaged by heavy rainfall.
Cyclone Gulab: Cyclone Gulab was the third tropical cyclone formed over the east-central Bay of Bengal on September 24. It reached the coastal regions of northern Andhra Pradesh and southern Odisha and started making landfall, at about 18:00 IST on September 26 and crossed 20 km north of Kalingapatnam at 21.00 IST. Three hours later, Cyclone Gulab downgraded to deep depression and further weakened into depression. It weakened into a well marked low pressure over west Vidarbha and reformed in the Arabian sea as the Cyclone Shaheen on September 29. It made landfall over the northern Oman coast on October 3 affecting the Gulf countries.
Cyclone Jawad: Cyclonic Storm Jawad was a weak tropical storm that affected Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal in the month of December. It crossed into the Andaman Sea by December 1 and reached near Puri coast as the deep depression on December 3 after being weakened due to wind shear. Two fatalities were confirmed both from Srikakulam.
9. Pegasus leak
A database of an Israeli surveillance technology firm NSO Group that sells a spyware called Pegasus was accessed by a Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. The database contained data of government clients of Pegasus since 2016. The non profit group worked on this data through an international collaborative journalism of 17 media groups from 10 countries including The Wire (India), Le Monde, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Süddeutsche Zeitung etc. The Wire, the Indian media partner in the group, revealed that data of more than 300 Indians including 40 journalists, leaders in opposition parties, a Supreme Court Judge and two ministers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi cabinet were under surveillance through Pegasus. However, the Prime Minister’s Office denied the allegations citing these as ‘baseless’ and lack concrete evidence.
10. Raj Kundra, spouse of Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty, in adult film racket
Businessman Raj Kundra, husband of actor and businesswoman Shilpa Shetty, was arrested by the Mumbai Police on July 19 and sent to the Arthur Road jail in connection with an adult film racket. The police alleged that Raj Kundra was the “main facilitator” in the case and he along with other accused Ryan Thorpe exploited young women struggling in the movie industry by filming them in obscene ways. The probe revealed that one UK production house was found to be uploading obscene content and its executive Umesk Kamat was behind the act. Kundra landed in trouble for his alleged connection with Kamat. The Crime Branch filed nearly 1,500-page charge-sheet against Raj Kundra and Ryan Thorpe in the court on September 15. Kundra walked out of jail on September 21, a day after a magistrate court granted bail.
11. India’s achievements at 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics
- India won total 7 medals (1 Gold, 2 Silver and 4 Bronze) at 2020 Summer Olympics held between July 23 July and August 8, 2021, in Tokyo.
- Saikhom Mirabai Chanu brought the first Olympic silver medal on July 24 at 2020 Summer Olympics, becoming the first Indian Olympic medalist in weightlifting since 2000.
- On August 1, shuttler PV Sindhu won Olympic bronze medal. With this, she became the first Indian female athlete and second Indian to win two consecutive olympic medals for individual events. Earlier, she had won a silver in women badminton in 2016 Olympics.
- On August 4, Indian Boxer Lovlina Borgohain, won bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics in Welterweight category.
- On August 5, India men’s national hockey team won Olympic bronze medal at 2020 Summer Olympics. It was the first Olympic medal of men’s national hockey team since 1980. On the same day, Indian Wrestler, Ravi Kumar Dahiya won Olympic silver medal.
- On August 6, Indian Women Hockey team lost the bronze medal match against United Kingdom at Tokyo Olympics.
- On August 7, athlete Neeraj Chopra won India’s first-ever gold medal in Javelin thrown at Tokyo Olympics. On the same day, Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia won Olympic bronze medal at Men’s freestyle 65 kg category taking the tally to 7 medals in 2020 Olympics.
India’s tally at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics was higher than Tokyo Olympics as the country won total 19 medals (5 Gold, 8 Silver and 6 Bronze). The events were held between August 24 and September 5 at Tokyo. The medalists at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics included —
Avani Lekhara (shooting at Women’s R2 10 metre air rifle standing SH1), Sumit Antil (Athletics at Men’s javelin throw F64), Manish Narwal (Shooting at Mixed P4 50 metre pistol SH1), Pramod Bhagat (Badminton at Men’s singles SL3), Krishna Nagar (Badminton at Men’s singles SH6).
Bhavina Patel (Table tennis at Women’s individual class 4), Nishad Kumar (Athletics at Men’s high jump T47), Yogesh Kathuniya (Athletics at Men’s discus throw F56), Devendra Jhajharia (Athletics at Men’s javelin throw F46), Mariyappan Thangavelu (Athletics at Men’s high jump T63), Praveen Kumar (Athletics at Men’s high jump T64), Singhraj Adhana (Shooting at Mixed P4 50 metre pistol SH1), Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj (Badminton at Men’s singles SL4).
Sundar Singh Gurjar (Athletics at Men’s javelin throw F46), Singhraj Adhana (Shooting at Men’s P1 10 metre air pistol SH1), Sharad Kumar (Athletics at Men’s high jump T63), Avani Lekhara (Shooting at Women’s R8 50 metre Rifle 3 positions SH1), Harvinder Singh (Archery at Men’s individual recurve open), Manoj Sarkar (Badminton at Men’s singles SL3).
12. Cruise drug bust off Mumbai coast
On October 2, Eight people including Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan khan arrested by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) following a raid conducted on a Goa-bound luxury cruise ‘Cordelia’ off Mumbai coast. Arbaaz Merchant, Munmun Dhamecha, Nupur Satija, Ishmeet Singh Chadha, Mohak Jaiswal, Gomit Chopra, and Vikrant Chhokar were among others arrested for allegedly possessing and selling banned contraband during the rave party on the cruise. During the probe in the case, total 20 people were arrested.
Aryan Khan was sent to Arthur Road jail. Khan’s family celebrated at their Mannat House in Mumbai after Aryan was granted bail by the Bombay High Court on October 28. He walked out of the jail on October 30 after spending more than three weeks in the cell.
Meanwhile, NCB Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, who led the cruise drug bust relating to superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan, faced bribe allegations. The probe is currently underway.
13. BJP’s loss in Lok Sabha and Assembly bypolls
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered massive setback in the year 2021 as it lost Lok Sabha and Assembly bypolls in West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka.
In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress continued sweeping the bypolls in all four seats of Bengal.
In the Northeast, the BJP swept almost all the seats, winning all nine seats along with its allies. Of the five seats in Assam, the party won all three where it fielded candidates. Alliance partner UPPL won the other two. It also registered victories in Mizoram and Meghalaya.
BJP won only Khandwa Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh bypoll. The party not only lost other Lok Sabha seat in Mandi of Himachal Pradesh, but also lost all 4 assembly seats which its MLAs had held before till their deaths.
As many as 33 seats were vacant, of them 3 were Lok Sabha seats and 30 were assembly seats in 13 states and the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The bypolls were held on October 30 to three Lok Sabha seats (Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Mandi in Himachal Pradesh and Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh), 29 Assembly seats (5 in Assam, 4 in West Bengal, 3 each in Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, 2 each in Bihar, Karnataka and Rajasthan and 1 each in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Mizoram and Telangana) as ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP)’s S Keoshu Yimchunger won unopposed the Shamator Chessore Legislative Assembly constituency in Nagaland.
Lok Sabha bypolls:
The BJP lost the Mandi Lok Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh to the Congress but retained the Khandwa seat in Madhya Pradesh by defeating the Congress candidate. The BJP had fielded Kargil war hero Brigadier Khushal Singh Thakur against Congress’ Pratibha Singh, wife of six-time CM late Virbhadra Singh, from Mandi. The Congress wrested the Mandi Lok Sabha seat from the BJP with Pratibha Singh winning by a narrow margin of 8,766 votes.
The Khandwa Lok Sabha Constituency in Madhya Pradesh went to poll after death of BJP’s six-term MP Nandkumar Singh Chauhan due to complications associated with Covid-19. The BJP fielded Gyaneswar Patil, against Raj Narayan Singh Purni of the Congress and succeeded in retaining the seat.
- Himachal Pradesh
BJP lost all 3 assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh, the home state of BJP’s National President JP Nadda, in a direct fight with Congress. The bypolls were necessitated in the 3 assembly constituencies of the state due to death of BJP’s Narinder Bragta in Jubbal-Kothai, Congress’ Sujan Singh Pathania in Fatehpur and former CM Virbhadra Singh of the Congress in Arki.
The BJP had fielded Neelam Saraik for the bypoll to Jubbal-Kothai assembly constituency but lost to retain the seat. The party also lost Fatehpur and Arki seats.
- Madhya Pradesh
Three assembly seats went to bypolls in Madhya Pradesh. The BJP fielded party worker Pratima Bagri for the Raigaon seat in Satna district and won the bypoll. Prithvipur seat went to BJP with major victory of Sishupal Yadav, a former Samajwadi Party leader in a tough battle against Congress. The party also wrested Jobat assembly seat from Congress in the bypoll.
The BJP lost to Congress in the bypolls to Dhariawad assembly constituency and Vallabhnagar assenbly constituency in Rajasthan. Congress’ Nagraj Meena and Preeti Shaktawat, the widow of late MLA Gajendra Singh Shaktawat, won the bypolls from Dhariawad and Vallabhnagar respectively defeating BJP candidates Khet Singh Meena and Himmat Singh Jhala.
The saffron party also suffered setback in Hangal bypolls in Karnataka as its candidate Shivrah Sajjanar was defeated by the Congress. However, the party managed to win Sindgi assembly bypoll in the State.
14. Mehbooba Mufti placed under house arrest
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti was reportedly placed under house arrest following death of death of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on September 1.
The authorities snapped mobile telephone services and internet services, except on BSNL’s Broadband and Fiber, on September 1 night immediately after the 91-year-old Geelani passed away at his residence in Srinagar.
She tweeted about the development slamming the Centre and J&K administration on ‘fake claims’ of normalcy in Kashmir.
Earlier, she had called Kashmir an ‘open-air prison’ after an FIR was filed over draping of Geelani’s body in a Pakistani flag and alleged raising of anti-national slogans after his death.
“Having turned Kashmir into an open air prison, now even the dead aren’t spared. A family isn’t allowed to mourn and bid a final farewell as per their wishes. Booking Geelani sahab’s family under UAPA shows the Government of India’s deep rooted paranoia and ruthlessness. This is New India’s Naya Kashmir,” Mehbooba said.
In March this year, the Centre had refused to issue a passport for Mehbooba and her mother, citing it would be “detrimental to the security of India”. The Enforcement Directorate is currently conducting a probe into alleged money laundering, which she says is aimed at “dismantling” the PDP.
15. IPL welcomes two new franchises
The BCCI on October 25 announced successful bidders for two new Indian Premier League (IPL) Franchises. While new Lucknow IPL team was bought by RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group (RPSG) for Rs. 7,090 crore, CVC Capital Partners bought the Ahmedabad team for Rs 5,625 crore.
“The BCCI is happy to welcome two new teams from the next season of the Indian Premier League. I would like to congratulate RPSG Ventures Ltd. & Irelia Company Pte Ltd for being the successful bidders,” said Sourav Ganguly, President, BCCI.
The new franchises will participate in IPL from 2022 season onwards subject to the bidders completing the post-bid formalities as specified in the ITT document. The IPL 2022 season will comprise ten teams and will have 74 matches, wherein each team will play 7 home and 7 away matches.