The year 2009 has been a year of extremes. The demise of the “King of Pop,” the first “African-American” President moving to the White House, A. R. Rahman taking India to the heights of Oscar glory, China turning 60, the Congress Party sweeping general elections and the Indian courts legalizing gay marriages — 2009 can be titled as the year of new beginnings for the world and India in specific. The year ended with Andhra Pradesh Governor caught in camera with his pants down, the nation divided over formation of Telangana and a former bureaucrat being convicted for harassing 19-year-old Ruchika Girotra, 18 years after committing the crime.
Singh’s magic brings landslide victory to Cong.
Verdict 2009 was for stability, positivity and development. It rejected cynicism, negative campaigning and old approach to politics. This was all too evident as the Congress Party led-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) romped home with 262 seats — a full 45 seats more from the stunning result of 2004.
As Manmohan Singh became the only Prime Minister to retain his seat for the second consecutive term, it was clear that the divisive politics of the Right and the outdated ideas of the Left were not in tune with India of the 21st century. BJP’s fortunes dipped by 25 seats, while the CPI(M) suffered its worst showing since when it first fought the Lok Sabha polls in 1967 when it won 19 seats — this time it was 16 seats and a drubbing in West Bengal and Kerala.
Having won a clear mandate, all hopes are now set on the UPA government for it to meet the aspirations of the youth, who seem to have tilted the result in its favor.
Violence over Telangana
Andhra Pradesh dominated headlines throughout December. Giving in to pressure, the Congress Party blinked and gave a formal nod to formation of Telangana, only to develop cold feet barely few days later. Telangana Rashtra Samiti president K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s 11-day fast forced the Congress Party to give a formal go-head. The violence rocked the state on both accounts — first when the Congress Party gave the nod and later when it developed cold feet. The issue hangs in balance and the Congress Party is maintaining “no hurried decision” stand as on date.
The year 2009 started with a slight shock for corporate India. On January 7, 2009, the chairman of Satyam Computers, Ramalinga Raju admitted major financial wrong doings. Raju confessed that he had been inflating profits and distorting balance sheets for years at a stretch. Raju resigned as the chairman of Satyam, after admitting flaws. An initial estimate pegged the monumental fraud at Rs. 7,800 crore. Satyam Stocks came crashing down to as low as Rs. 6 per share. Government agencies stepped in and restored order in the IT major. Satyam has been taken over by Mahindra and today Mahindra Satyam is finally salvaged.
Andhra Governor N.D. Tiwari’s sex romp
Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Governor N.D. Tiwari was caught on cameras with his pants down... and literally so. ABN channel, owned by Telugu daily Andhra Jyothi, showed explicit clippings purported to be of Tiwari involved in a sex romp. The channel showed pictures of an elderly man said to be Tiwari with three young women in bed. It claimed that the pictures were taken in the Raj Bhavan. Though the Governor submitted his resignation citing “health grounds,” it is clear that the controversy was too hot for Congress-led UPA government to handle. Sources said Tiwari resigned after the Central government asked him to quit on receipt of a report from state government over the alleged sex scandal.
Composer A.R. Rahman, who won two awards, including the best original score for the film Slumdog Millionaire, became the first Indian to win two Oscar awards in one night. Although Rahman has composed a large number of better tracks, it was his music in Slumdog Millionaire that did India proud after winning the Oscars.
Justice for Ruchika outcry
Rathore, a 1965-batch IPS officer who retired in 2002, is on the verge of losing police medal after he was convicted by a CBI court early December. Rathore molested Ruchika (14), a budding tennis player, in 1990. He was then Inspector General of Police. She committed suicide three years later by consuming poison as the police official continued to harass her family. She was expelled from school and false cases were slapped against her brother and her family. Rathore has been awarded six months imprisonment. The light sentence awarded to him created uproar and the Union government is now asking Rathore why his 1985 Police Medal for Meritorious Services should not be withdrawn and pension benefits reduced.
Gay pride right: hide no more
The Indian High court of Delhi, created history on July 2, 2009 when it repealed the section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and thereby de-criminalized same-sex behavior amongst adults. The law, which was initially enforced upon during the British rule was revised after a lot pressure from various communities.
Floods in South India play havoc
The worst floods in over a century left a trail of destruction estimated at Rs. 12,225 crore, affecting lakhs of people in major districts of Andhra Pradesh. A Hindu temple is partially submerged as water gushes out of the Nagarjuna Sagar dam, in Andhra Pradesh on October 5, 2009. Thousands of government troops and relief workers spread across the state for relief operations.
History was created in Mumbai, when the world’s cheapest car was launched by TATA motors in March. The car which costs around Rs. 1.3 lakh was termed as the people’s car by TATA group chairman Ratan Tata. The rear engine, four-seat car was aimed specifically at the Indian market with the middle class citizens as the main target.
Kapil Revamp education system
Kapil Sibal has proved to be a breath of fresh air after his Ministry’s previous incumbents, who indulged in their own agendas, simply ignored the immense potential of India’s human resource. Sibal has embarked on an ambitious over-haul of the basic and advanced education system in India — from scrapping Class X boards to making education a right for all, the Minister has recognized the importance of empowering through education, rather than reservation. He has also put the Foreign University Bill on fast track though that has invited some criticism, as it would benefit the well-off.
Higher education has been freed from government shackles with the IIMs going ahead with their online exams and the Minister not interfering even when it failed. It has left thousands of MBA aspirants in a lurch, but with an institution like IIM, one can hope of things getting better soon.
Corruption on top
The year saw the unearthing of one of the biggest scams. Madhu Koda, Jharkhand’s ex-chief minister was accused of amassing assets worth Rs. 4000 crore, nearly a fifth of the annual budget of Jharkhand! The scam also sucked in Bollywood beauties like Celina Jaitely and Koena Mitra, who were approached by him to be the face of Jharkhand. The rise of Koda was meteoric and so was his fall. Coming from the humble backgrounds of being a mining laborer and welder, Koda’s success would have been a story to imitate, but he chose a path that took him to jail.
Gold shatters price record
The price of gold rose a tremendous 55 percent over the past year to reach a record high of $1,226 an ounce on December 03. Gold has seen a bull run over the year on the back of inflationary fears and increasing moves by central banks to diversify assets away from the dollar, which has weakened against the Euro.
A falling greenback makes dollar-denominated gold cheaper for buyers holding stronger currencies, pushing up demand for the metal. Dubai crisis, falling oil prices coupled with the increasing desire of China to buy gold has contributed to the cause.