It’s been a good year, arguably the best since we became an independent nation. We have never been as well off as we are today. There is more in our kitty. We are earning more and spending more. Our rate of development is faster than before — over 9 per cent. Our Sensex has broken all previous records. We had less internal turbulence than the previous years. Our relations with our immediate neighbours, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh have never been as tension-free as they are today; nor have our relations with the world’s greatest superpower, the United States been friendlier: they have opened up new vistas for India as a nuclear power.
What is also worth keeping in mind is that our faith in our judiciary was restored as the courts convicted many rich and powerful criminals who had evaded justice for many years. We await the verdict on men and women who abetted the destruction of Babri Masjid.
Not to be overlooked is our film industry: Bollywood retains its first place as the world’s leading film producer and every Indian, including people like myself who never see movies, look forward to the burgeoning romance between Aishwarya Rai and Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan’s son, Abhishek come to a happy conclusion.
Not many believed that the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh-led coalition would be able to withstand the onslaught of the Opposition BJP and other parties as well as defeat mischief-makers among their own allies. Whether we like it or not, the Congress party is held together by one family of three members: Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and daughter Priyanka. People look at them as the inheritors of the legacy by Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Maulana Azad and others. Without Sonia and her children there would be nothing left of the Congress party because its cadre of supporters is indisciplined and weak.
Manmohan Singh is Sonia’s choice as Prime Minister; she could not have chosen a better man: ability, experience and honesty all in one. Despite the constraints placed on him as the head of a coalition government, he has delivered. He may not be able to win a municipal by-election, but if there was an all-India poll to elect a Prime Minister, he will emerge as the outright winner.
The year started with Rajnath Singh replacing L.K. Advani as the head of the BJP, a move welcomed by the RSS and the majority of its members. Then, a terrible tragedy took place during the Haj pilgrimage in which 368 people were killed. The same month, Buta Singh was sacked from governorship of Bihar.
February was comparatively eventless, apart from the death of actress Nadira, 78. March began with the state visit of President George W. Bush with a distinct warming of Indo-US relations. The communal atmosphere was fouled by a series of blasts in Varanasi’s Sankat Mochan temple and railway station, leaving 23 dead. The month ended in a succession of deaths: Ajit Biswas of the CPM, Bhai Mohan Singh, founder of Ranbaxy, Bansi Lal, former Defence Minister and CM of Haryana and Manohar Shyam Joshi, the father of TV soaps.
April took its toll on life: a bus went down in the Beas, drowning 30; a fire in Meerut Trade Fair killed 50 to 100 visitors. Following the Kannada actor Raj Krishna’s death, violence erupted in Bangalore in which five people were killed. On the 22nd, Pramod Mahajan, secretary of the BJP, was shot by his younger brother. The BJP, already reeling under factional divisions, received a severe jolt.
Noted Bollywood music director Naushad died on May 5. Most important were the results of elections held in five states: Jayalalithaa’s AAIDMK lost out to Karunanidhi’s DMK and she was replaced by him as chief minister of Tamil Nadu. The Communists held their ground in West Bengal and Kerala. The Congress won Pondicherry and Assam. The crowning achievement of the month was when seven BSF men scaled the Everest.
Notable obituaries in June were of the publisher, Ravi Dayal followed 11 days later by Surinder Kaur, the Punjabi folk singer.
Nandini Satpathy, 75, the fomer CM of Orissa died on August 4. Her death was followed two days later by that of Dalit leader and MP Suraj Bhan; a fortnight later by shehnai maestro and Bharat Ratna Bismillah Khan and a day later by film director Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
In September, 53 miners were killed in a disaster in Dhanbad. A bomb blast outside a mosque in Malegaon left 43 dead. Afzal Guru, master-mind of the attack on Parliament House was sentenced to death.
Dalit leader and Mayawati’s mentor, Kanshi Ram, 74, died on October 8. But the month was a month of awards: a Booker for Kiran Desai, a Literature Nobel for Orhan Pamuk of Turkey and the Nobel Peace for Mohamed Yunus of Bangladesh. The process of restoring justice began with the death sentence for lawyer Santosh Singh for the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo. Nemesis took another month to catch up with Shibu Soren for murder and Navjot Sidhu for manslaughter. Polly Umrigar, cricketer, died at 80 followed by film director N. Sippy, 75. The most important event was the visit of President Hu Jintao of China on the 20th.
December began badly with an overbridge collapsing on a train near Bhagalpur, killing 34 passengers. However, on the 12th,
both Houses of the US legislature endorsed the nuclear deal with India. It has been generally welcomed by people of both
countries. As expected, the BJP and the Communists indulged in nit-picking for reasons of their own.
I wish my reader a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2007.
There was a super secretary named Rice,Apparently strict, actually nice:When queried“Getting married?”She said: “Not without thinking twice.”
(Courtesy: Prabhat S. Vaidya, Mumbai)