Gujarat: Year of migrants' march, hospital fires, lion's roar By Parag Dave

·4-min read

Ahmedabad, Dec 28 (PTI) Disruption of industrial activities due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, protests by jobless migrants eager to return home and hospital fires - all these and more kept Gujarat in the news during the year.

Near-deserted roads, closed factories, business establishments and educational institutions defined life in the early months of the lockdown in the state.

Public mask mandate, social distancing, hand hygiene, work from home and online education became buzzwords as people digested the magnitude of the global health crisis.

The lockdown turned into a human tragedy in Gujarat as migrant labourers, rendered jobless and left with very little resources to fall back on, decided to leave for their native places.

The restless migrant workers hit the streets to demand transport arrangements to travel back to their hometowns during the lockdown. These protests took violent turn in some cities.

There were painful scenes of migrant workers returning to their home states by whatever means of transport they got.

While some just walked towards their native places, others used cycles or any other vehicle available to make the return journey.

The government later started special trains to ferry migrant workers to their respective states.

Some patients were burnt alive in fire incidents while being treated at Gujarat's COVID-19 designated hospitals.

For coronavirus patients in the ICU of Ahmedabad's Shrey Hospital, the intervening night of August 5 and 6 proved devastating. Eight patients perished in the massive fire at the hospital.

On November 26 and 27 night, five COVID-19 patients died in a blaze in the ICU of a private hospital in Rajkot.

A fire broke out at SSG Hospitals ICU in Vadodara but patients were saved as they were evacuated in time.

The pandemic did not discriminate between the rich and the poor as the state authorities moved to ramp up testing labs, earmarked beds in hospitals for COVID-19 patients and set up quarantine facilities to deal with the rising cases.

As the march of the coronavirus slowed down life, gritty tales of health professionals and frontline workers helping the fight against the infection came to light.

The pandemic took a toll on the economy of Gujarat, one of the most industrialised states, social life and even affected the mental health of some people.

The first case of coronavirus was reported in Gujarat on March 19 and the maiden death registered on March 22. Since then the health authorities have been dealing with increasing caseloads and deaths from across the state.

Life started coming back on track after the unlocking process began and economic activities resumed.

However, a second wave of COVID-19, which started after the festive season ended in mid-November, prompted the state government to introduce a night curfew in four major cities - Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot.

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, died on November 25 due to complications related to COVID-19.

Newly-elected BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat Abhay Bharadwaj died on December 2 due while undergoing treatment for COVID-19 complications.

Former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel died on October 29 due to post-COVID-19 health-related issues, while Gujarati film actor Naresh Kanodia died while undergoing treatment for the viral infection.

Former Union minister Bharatsinh Solanki survived the coronavirus after a struggle of 102 days in a hospital, while a 59-year-old man from Dholka town in Ahmedabad district defeated the virus after spending 113 days in a hospital.

During his visits to his home state over the last two months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched many projects including a sea-plane service, ro-pax ferry service and a ropeway in Gujarat.

He also laid foundation stones for a mega hybrid energy park in Kutch district and desalination plants in the state.

The BJP won all the eight Assembly seats where bypolls were held in November, boosting the stature of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. These seats fell vacant after sitting Congress MLAs resigned ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls in June, paving the way for the BJP's victory on three of the four RS seats.

The BJP's clean sweep in the Assembly bypolls raised question marks over the organisational strength of the state Congress, out of power in Gujarat for over two decades now.

In news that brought cheers to wildlife lovers, the Gujarat forest department, after an estimation exercise in June, said the number of lions in Gir forests has increased from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020.

The department did not carry out a full census this time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Viraat is awaiting dismantling at the Alang ship breaking yard in Gujarat after hopes of converting the iconic ship into a museum faded.

During the year, Gujarat saw two major industrial accidents in which 20 people died.

In January, eight people were killed in a blast at an industrial and medical gas manufacturing company in Vadodara district, while on November 4, a powerful blast rocked a chemical storage unit in Ahmedabad, killing 12 people.

Five Pakistanis allegedly trying to smuggle in drugs worth Rs 175 crore were apprehended on a fishing boat off the Gujarat coast in January by the Coast Guard. PTI PD RSY VT VT VT