The year 2020 has been an unprecedented one which has seen a health crisis of unimaginable proportions, in turn, triggering economic and social upheavals. While news about the coronavirus and pandemic dominated the year, it also saw its moments of despair, hope, cheer and drama.
We take a look at some of the biggest news stories of the tumultuous year that was 2020:
COVID-19 in India: The first case of the coronavirus in India was located in Kerala on January 30 through a medical student who had returned from Wuhan. This was followed by the second and third cases in February. Kerala moved quickly to contain the cases by conducting extensive tracing and stringent quarantining of patients and their contacts. However, by March, the virus had spread to Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and other places.
Mass gatherings such as the Tablighi Jamaat event at Delhi’s Nizamuddin, held between March 1-21, became superspreaders. As cases increased, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns on March 24th, halting most economic and social activities, closing borders and allowing only essential services to continue.
Healthcare facilities were ramped up, private hospitals roped in and makeshift isolation centres set up across the country to accommodate the growing cases. Soon, India overtook other nations to become the nation with the second-highest cases in the world. Today, the country has crossed the 90-lakh mark, even as active cases have declined to 5 per cent of this.
All hopes rest on the vaccines being developed on a war footing. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has announced that the Coronavirus vaccine will be available in the next few months, with 400-500 million doses being available for 25-30 crore people by July-August. Healthcare workers and those who work in essential services will be in the first line of priority, then people aged 65 and above, post which those in the age group of 50-65 will be considered. However, it will take some time before the vaccines cover each one of the 1.3 billion population in the country.
Migrant exodus: As the virus spread, India saw a humanitarian crisis, with the lockdown impacting nearly 40 million migrants. What started as groups of migrants walking from Mumbai and neighbouring districts to their hometowns in Gujarat and Rajasthan slowly grew into the largest mass exodus since the Partition, in March.
Many travelled thousands of kilometres on foot to reach their villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, while others travelled by the special Shramik trains that were launched by the Government. Not all reached their destinations, though.
While the Government has since said they do not have any data on the number of migrants who died, according to data compiled by road safety NGO, 198 migrants lost their lives in road accidents during this lockdown period, while many more have died of hunger, heatstroke and exhaustion.
India-China clashes: On May 5th, a scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese forces, who had encroached into the Indian border at the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. Soldiers from both sides engaged in stone-pelting and fistfights and around 11 soldiers were injured.
On June 14, after a group of PLA soldiers erected tents and an observation post on the LAC, senior Indian Army officer Colonel Suresh Babu and two of his soldiers went, unarmed, to meet their Chinese counterparts and discuss de-escalation measures. They were attacked with iron rods and barbed wires, unprovoked. In the resultant hand to hand combat, during the interluding night between June 15 and 16, 20 Indian army personnel and 43 Chinese soldiers were killed.
While anti-China sentiments flared in India, with a call for banning Chinese goods, the Indian Government reacted by banning 59 mobile apps developed in China, along with several infrastructural projects for which Chinese companies had won contracts.
Cyclone Amphan: The strongest cyclone to hit the Ganges Delta since 2007, super cyclone Amphan caused widespread destruction in the eastern coast of India, primarily West Bengal and Bangladesh, in May this year. 72 people died, 17 in Kolkata alone, apart from losses of nearly Rs 1 lakh crores. The Centre recently approved Rs 2,708 crore as assistance to West Bengal for the damages caused by the cyclone.
GDP shrinks 23.9 per cent: India recorded a GDP drop of 23.9 per cent, in the period April-June 2020. This is the worst contraction since India started reporting GDP data in 1996. The stringent lockdown measures, which put a huge dent on the economy, caused all sectors, apart from agriculture to suffer huge losses. The gross value added growth (GVA) in the manufacturing sector shrank by 39.3 per cent, while industries such as construction, trade, travel and hospitality, were all badly affected. The RBI’s monthly bulletin for November has projected contraction for a second consecutive quarter, meaning that India has entered into a technical recession for the first time in its history.
Sushant Singh Rajput passes away: A death that shook an entire nation, actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Bandra residence on June 14. The death was treated as a suicide and discussions around his mental health state and clinical depression due to professional rivalry, did the rounds.
Soon after Rajput’s death, actor Kangana Ranaut caused a stir when she alleged that Rajput could not have any mental problems as he was a rank holder, and accused a section of the film industry of not acknowledging Rajput and driving him to his death. Cases were filed against Bollywood celebrities and members of the film industry in connection with the death. The police summoned a number of producers, filmmakers and actors in connection with the case.
As it progressed, the case saw many twists and turns as angles of abetment of suicide, murder and even drugs, emerged. Soon, questions were raised over the Mumbai Police’s handling of the case and it was handed over to the CBI, at the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government’s recommendation.
Meanwhile, Sushant’s family filed an FIR against actress Rhea Chakraborty, his former girlfriend, and five others of abetment to suicide. On 8 September, Rhea was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) after three consecutive days of questioning, in connection with a drugs case. Actors Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh were also summoned by the NCB over the drugs racket case unearthed during the investigation.
While Dr Sudhir Gupta, head, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), has ruled out murder and submitted its report confirming death by suicide, the CBI is yet to give any information about its findings of the case.
Member States elect India to the non-permanent seat of the Security Council for the term 2021-22 with overwhelming support.
India gets 184 out of the 192 valid votes polled. pic.twitter.com/Vd43CN41cY
— India at UN, NY (@IndiaUNNewYork) June 17, 2020
India elected to UNSC: India was formally elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a period of two years on June 18, 2020, after winning with an overwhelming majority. This is the 8th term for the country, the previous one being in 2011-12.
India was the sole candidate from the Asia-Pacific region for the 2021-22 term. Since long, India has been pushing to get a permanent seat at UNSC. The country will begin its term on January 1, 2021, joining 15 other members – five permanent and 10 non-permanent at the Council.
Construction of Ram Temple begins in Ayodhya: On August 5th, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation brick for the Supreme Court-mandated Ram Temple to be constructed in Ayodhya. A 40 kg silver brick was laid as the foundation stone.
The construction of the Ram temple has been BJP’s poll pledge since 1991. This brings into fruition the three-decade-long movement by BJP to build a temple at the site, after a long and battle over the ownership of the site.
Construction work is set to be completed in 36-40 months, as per the Temple trust. The temple would be the final resting place of Ram Lulla, the infant Ram which is currently housed in a tent.
Bihar elections: Bihar assembly elections, held in three phases through October and November, became the first to be held during the pandemic and a period of acute economic stress, with the state experiencing reverse migration. In one of the closest races in recent times, BJP won in 74 of the 110 seats it contested and JD(U) bagged 43 seats out of the 115 seats it fought. The Mahagathbandhan gave the ruling alliance a close chase, winning 110 seats.
A lot of the election campaign was focused on issues concerning the youth. The RJD, which won in 75 constituencies, became the largest political party in the legislative assembly, catapulting Tejashwi Yadav as the new star of the state’s politics. However, incumbent Nitish Kumar came back to power, making him the longest-serving CM in the state.
These elections also saw more women step out to vote, helping tilt the balance in favour of JD(U)-BJP alliance. Out of the 125 seats the NDA won in the elections, 99 came from constituencies which saw a higher women turnout. The CM has his hands full with issues of development, unemployment and inflation being the biggest issues concerning the state during the elections.
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) November 10, 2020
Mumbai Indians win IPL 2020, amidst pandemic: The 13th season of the IPL, originally supposed to commence on 29 March, and postponed due to the lockdown, was held between 19 September and 10 November in the United Arab Emirates. Despite early hiccoughs, including multiple players and staff from Chennai Super Kings testing positive for COVID-19, the game went ahead, with defending champions Mumbai Indians winning the title for the fifth time. This IPL, set in the COVID backdrop, also broke viewership, engagement and ad sale records. It set a viewership record with an overall viewership consumption increase of 23 per cent.