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2016 was ruthless

Dear Readers,

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e survived one more year with great struggle; it’s your support and encouragement which gives boost to our confidence. We are the independent parallel media, sustaining has become a day to day challenge but we could make 2016 yet another memorable year. We performed charity, social work and lived up to your expectations maintaining the standards of unbiased journalism. We are here to fight the evils of fourth estate and are committed to do so till we survive. Believe me, this year we had to face several hardships but our team supported each other to withstand all challenges and your support made us strong. Even our country witnessed turbulent times and somehow the year passes away with all sorts of comforts and discomforts.

This year was not so good for Indians, riots, demonetization, attacks from Pakistan, unrest in Kashmir, deaths of prominent personalities, and there was chaos everywhere and no common man was at much peace.

Indo-Pak relation

The Indian and Pakistani governments provided one another with a full list of nuclear sites, military and civilian, in accordance with the 1988 Non-Nuclear Aggression Agreement. Heavily armed gunmen, reportedly members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, attacked an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, Punjab. Two of the gunmen were killed. A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck India 29 km (18 mi) west of Imphal with a maximum Mercalli intensity of VII (Very strong). At least eight people were killed, 100 others were injured and some buildings were damaged. In February 2016, Pulwama militant siege and unrest in Kashmir continued.

Nation unrest throughout year

Bihar state imposed liquor ban. 2016 Ujjain Simhastha Kumbha Fair was organized between 22 April and 21 May. Nearly 75 million people visited the fair during this one-month period. In April month, Puttingal temple fire claimed 107 lives. Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election was held as Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK emerged victorious whereas BJP swept Assam Legislative Assembly polls. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) triumphed in West Bengal while Congress won majority in Puducherry Legislative Assembly election.

The ISRO’s RLV-TD vehicle was launched from the first launchpad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre on board an HS9 rocket booster. Meanwhile in the same month 30 died following fire in army weapon depot in Pulgaon, Wardha district, Maharashtra.

In June, Government of India accepted 7th Pay Commission recommendations to increase salaries of employees. In July, at least 30 died in heavy rains in Uttarakhand. In August, Goods and Services Tax (India) Bill passed in parliament and in the same month Manipur activist Irom Sharmila ended her 16 years of hunger strike. India–Pakistan military confrontation escalated following Uri attack on 19th September. Cauvery River water dispute, violence broke out in Karnataka. 43 out of 44 MLAs of Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly left Congress and joined People’s Party of Arunachal. The Patna High Court struck down liquor ban law.

India continued its craze for quirky Guinness World Records in 2016. In September, a team of 20 people from an Andhra Pradesh sweetshop cooked up the world’s largest laddu, weighing in at 29,465 kgs.

Month of October began with Baramulla attack. BJP joined People’s Party of Arunachal-lead government in Arunachal Pradesh. On 15th October, 24 people died following stampede at religious meet in Varanasi. Twenty two lives were lost in the Bhubaneshwar fire incident. In the business world, major news was Cyrus Mistry sacked as the Chairman of the Tata Sons. Tata is one of Indian’s biggest conglomerates. In the same month, 15 were convicted while 23 acquitted in the Senari massacre case. On November 1, Manipur unrest started. After one week, the Indian government scrapped Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 banknotes with immediate effect which caused political uproar and claimed 125 lives. New notes were issued. In the same month, 42 Congress MLAs submitted their resignation to Punjab Vidhan Sabha following the Supreme Court order related to the Sutlej Yamuna link canal project.

On 26th November, 6 fled from Nabha jail in Punjab but later they were arrested. At the same time seven soldiers were killed in the Nagrota army base attacks. On 30th November, Supreme Court of India ordered cinemas to play national anthem before films.

As the year was coming to an end, Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa who was hospitalized for 72 days in Apollo Hospital was officially declared dead after suffering Cardiac arrest. Ten persons were killed in the cyclonic storm Vardah. On 15th December, Supreme Court banned the sale of liquor on national and state highways due to large number of road accidents on account of drunk driving.  With the crackdowns on everything from food to free speech, as well as the loss of some of our favourite pop culture icons, it’s no surprise everyone was involved in a countdown for the year to end. In another case, a woman in Kanpur refused to get married because her would-be groom’s house did not have a toilet.

In all these, Sushma Swaraj, India’s external affairs minister, ruled Twitter in 2016. Swaraj paid close attention to every request sent to her on the microblogging site and even rescued several Indians stuck abroad.

PM’s Foreign Tours

Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued to travel across the world with a push to strengthen India’s foreign policy. In all, the prime minister travelled to at least 17 countries in 2016.

Sports’ Achievement

However, 2016 was also marked by some amazing achievements made by Indians in every field, from space missions and Olympic sports to women’s rights and environmental conservation.

Eighteen-year-old Aditi Ashok became the youngest golfer to participate in the Olympics when she played at the Rio games in 2016. Aditi, who hails from Bengaluru, is currently ranked 112nd in the world, and became the first Indian woman to win a Ladies European Tour title in November. The Indian football club Bengaluru FC made history in October by reaching the finals of the AFC Cup. It was the first time an Indian team had made it that far in the prestigious tournament. Ravichandran Ashwin, the world’s number one bowler, helped India secure its fifth consecutive Test series win earlier this month. There’s real science behind his technique and that has made him one of the most effective bowlers in the game. Twenty tree year old Dipa Karmakar converted a whole nation into fans of gymnastics with her daring moves at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August. Though, the Tripura native—and the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the games—didn’t win a medal, she established herself as a name to remember by being one of the few gymnasts in the world to execute the Produnova vault, otherwise known as the “vault of death”. Two other Indian women also grabbed the spotlight at this year’s Olympics. 21-year old badminton star PV Sindhu from Hyderabad became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal at the games, as well as the youngest Indian to ever win a medal. And 23-year old Sakshi Malik from Haryana proved that wrestling is a sport for women, too. With her Bronze medal, Malik became the first woman wrestler from India to win at the Olympics. At the Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Indian athletes continued their winning streak, even as television channels back home decided not to broadcast their feats. Devendra Jhajharia, Mariyappan Thangavelu, and Deepa Malik overcame immense odds to take home medals for javelin, high jump, and shot-put, respectively. In November, the Indian women’s hockey team beat China in the last minutes of the finals match to win the Asian Champions trophy.

Bollywood foots in Hollywood

Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra established herself as a force to reckon with in Hollywood, too, appearing on the cover of W magazine and presenting an award at the Emmys. And all her hard work has paid off (literally). Chopra was ranked 8th on Forbes’s 2016 list of the world’s top 10 highest-paid TV actresses, earning an estimated $11 million in the 12 months ended in June. Actress Deepika Padukone also did her bit to smash Indian stereotypes by playing a leather-clad badass with a realistic Indian accent in the Hollywood action movie xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

Bollywood fastest earning

An Indian film about women wrestlers from Haryana, traditionally a patriarchal state, made a blockbuster opening this month with a collection of Rs. 100 crore over three days. Dangal—produced by actor Aamir Khan—is based on the story of Geeta and Babita Phogat, two wrestlers who went on to win international medals for the country. The movie shows how their father, Mahavir Phogat, pushed back against gender stereotypes that restricted the sport to men.

Business Front

In September, India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, introduced the Reliance Jio service with the world’s cheapest data rates and free voice calls, changing the game in the country’s telecom market.

Netflix finally came to India in January, giving viewers a chance to (legally) watch everything from old favourites like Gilmore Girls and That ’70s Show to originals such as Master of None and Jessica Jones. And in December, Amazon followed suit, introducing its video streaming service priced at Rs. 499 for a year. India’s economy performed pretty well in 2016, too. With a GDP growth forecast of over 7%, India is expected to maintain its position as Asia’s fastest-growing major economy. Urban Indian shoppers were rewarded in 2016 with the entry of even more foreign brands, from Spain’s fashionable Massimo Dutti to Japan’s minimalist Muji.

India’s lawmakers approved the country’s biggest tax reform since Independence, the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The GST will replace at least 17 states and federal taxes and bring them under one unified tax structure. In a big step forward for new parents, India is seeking to expand the legal provision for paid maternity leave to six months. What’s more, some private companies have even extended the benefit to new dads. Deutsche Bank, for instance, now offers six months off for fathers who are the primary caregivers of their infants.

The Indian government decided to stop building coal plants, at least until 2027, and to encourage the development of renewable energy resources instead, a strong move in the battle against climate change. In September, the Adani Group unveiled the world’s largest solar power plant, located in Tamil Nadu. The project took eight months to complete and can produce 648 mw of power. In a bid to boost green cover and combat climate change, India embarked on a drive to plant millions of trees in just one day.

India’s perennially loss-making airline, the government-controlled Air India, managed to make operational profits after nine years. In 2016, the airline made Rs. 105 crores in operating profits for the first time since 2007. India’s other domestic airlines, too, have posted profits after more than five years of losses.

Agriculture and plantation

On July 11, a group of volunteers in Uttar Pradesh planted 49.3 million tree saplings. The Indian government meanwhile has earmarked over $6 billion to create new forests, with a plan to increase the nation’s green cover to 33% of the total land mass, up from 21.34%. In January, Sikkim became India’s first organic state, producing crops such as maize, paddy and cardamom that are free from harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

Women Power

India’s Supreme Court finally ruled that temples can’t ban women or restrict their entry. The landmark decision was targeted at the Sabarimala Ayyappa Hindu temple in Kerala which doesn’t allow women aged between 10 and 50 to enter because of the stigma associated with menstruation. Same ruling was dictated for Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai.

Nineteen-year-old Reshma Qureshi proved that acid attack survivors can be powerful advocates for social change. Qureshi walked the runway at New York Fashion Week this year, making a strong statement about beauty and style, as well as promoting the #EndAcidSale movement.

This year, Indian women spoke up for their rights, pushing back against the stereotype of the docile, submissive wife. For instance, a Bengaluru woman turned down a marriage proposal because her fiancé didn’t like her dog and wanted her to get rid of it after the wedding.

Good Initiative

A citizens’ movement in Mumbai culminated in August with the world’s largest beach cleanup, ridding Versova beach of over four million pounds of trash.

Google and India’s Ministry of Urban Development tried to make things a little easier for locals looking for a public toilet in 2016. Google Maps now provides the locations and opening hours of over four thousand communal and public restrooms as part of an effort to boost access to sanitation. In recognition of her work for the poor in India, Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint in September. Born to ethnic Albanian parents in 1910, Mother Teresa went on to establish the Missionaries of Charity sisterhood in India in 1950, caring for the destitute in Kolkata’s slums, and garnering both praise and criticism for her methods.

Despite India’s conservative attitude to romantic relationships, startups came up with ideas to make life easier for unmarried couples in 2016. New Delhi-based StayUncle tied up with hotels to help couples rent rooms for just a few hours without any judgement or moral policing. Later, Oyo Rooms followed suit, offering access to “couple-friendly” hotels.

India’s net neutrality activists won their fight against differential pricing for internet-based apps and services in 2016. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in February barred telecom providers from charging different prices for different services, effectively blocking Facebook’s Free Basics plan.

The number of Indian unicorns—start-ups valued at $1 billion or more—went up to eight in 2016 with the addition of Shop clues, an e-commerce platform, and Hike, a messaging app.

This was also the year Indian production companies invested in original video content online. From Better Life Foundation to Ladies Room to Tripling, Indian web series took over YouTube, giving viewers a chance to discover homegrown talent.

Bossing Around

Asia’s third-largest economy surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia when it came to defence spending in 2016, making India one of the top five defence spenders in the world. Even in the Indian Ocean, India is flexing its muscles. From 2011 to 2016, the country’s naval voyages across the Indian Ocean have increased by 300%. This was partly an attempt to strengthen its presence in a region where China is increasingly asserting its influence.

On Technology Front

On December 26, India’s nuclear prowess was displayed when it conducted the fourth test launch of the Agni-V missile, a nuclear-capable, intercontinental ballistic missile. Incidentally, India is now one of Tinder’s top five growing markets in the world, drawing 14 million swipes a day as Indians step up their search for hook-ups, casual dates and even love online. India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), had a great year, with some 34 satellite launches. In September, ISRO launched 20 satellites into orbit on a single rocket, the highest number it has ever sent at a single time. ISRO also tested a prototype of a reusable space shuttle in May, which reduces the cost of space missions by a tenth.

Music front

It’s also been a great year for Indian music lovers with everything from the trippy electronic rock on The F16s much-awaited new album to the sun-kissed sounds of the pastel-suited duo, Parekh and Singh (Wes Anderson-approved!) And after all of Chris Martin’s expressions of love for India (including that godawful video), Coldplay finally took to the stage in Mumbai.

And lastly, India inspiringly pushed forward in its dream of going cashless, despite the flawed execution of its demonetisation drive. Prime Minister Modi wants 1.3 billion Indians to go cash-free and use digital payment services instead. If successful, that could increase transparency in the Indian economy and keep people from evading taxes.

I hope 2017 turns out to be a better year for all of us.

Dear Readers wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

 Inputs from Reuters/PTI and various agencies

 (Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on feedback@afternoonvoice.com)

Dr. Vaidehi Tamanhttp://www.vaidehisachin.com
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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