From nature's wrath to accidents and botch-ups in the healthcare sector, several tragedies shocked India in 2014. As the year draws to a close, HT brings to you a list of incidents that grabbed headlines and stirred discussion on what the country could do in order to prevent such incidents.
Chhattisgarh tubectomy tragedy, Punjab botch-ups
Thirteen women died after undergoing sterilisation surgeries at a government-organised camp in Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur in mid-November. RK Gupta, a 59-year old surgeon who operated on 83 women in just five hours, was arrested. The state government banned the sale of four medicines which were given to the women. Lab tests confirmed that tablets linked to the deaths contained a chemical compound commonly used in rat poison. There were also reports that equipment used in the surgeries was rusted.
Around three weeks later, 20 people were blinded after undergoing free cataract surgeries in Ghuman village in Punjab's Gurdaspur district, sending shock waves across the country. The cases raised fresh concerns about the hygiene standards in India's severely stretched healthcare services.
A devastating flood wreaked havoc in Jammu and Kashmir early September, killing around 280 people and resulting in a huge loss of property. Officials said J-K would need at least Rs 5,000 crore to rebuild the infrastructure damaged in the worst floods it has faced in more than a century. At some places, sufferers protested against the administration, alleging loopholes in rescue operations. Even as the armed forces carried out relentless relief work, their aircraft and boats were targeted by stone-pelters at some places. Also, separatists tried to thwart rescue operations in Srinagar, fearing that the well-organised efforts launched by forces might win hearts of people in the militancy-hit state. But in what could be described as a silver lining, there were reports that many Muslim families helped Pandits in dire need, forgetting their decades-old rivalry.
HT SPECIAL | Year in review : 2014
Malin landslide: A deadly landslide in Pune district's Malin village killed around 150 people and flattened scores of houses late July in the wake of monsoon. While the blame falls on deadly rains, experts said the tragedy was avoidable. Environment activists allege that every summer, just before the monsoon, the Maharashtra agriculture department levels land on hills so that villagers can carry out farming activity.
Severe cyclone Hudhud pounded Andhra Pradesh and Odisha in the second week of October, leaving 24 people dead and a trail of destruction in its wake. In Andhra Pradesh alone, around 1.35 lakh people had to take shelter in relief camps. Mass evacuation in the two states, however, minimised the damage. The cyclone caused a loss of Rs 21,908 crore, including damage to the tune of Rs 6,136 crore to private industries in Visakhapatnam, the Andhra government said.
Beas tragedy: On an excursion trip to Himachal Pradesh, 24 students from Hyderabad were washed away by the Beas in July. Altogether 38 students from VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad, were on the riverbank when the water level rose after discharge from a reservoir of the 126 MW Larji hydel power project around 2km away. While there were allegations that water was discharged without any warning, the plant said it had followed the rules.
GAIL blast: A gas pipeline of state-owned GAIL in Andhra Pradesh exploded in June-end, killing at least 16 people, injuring 18 others and gutting scores of homes. GAIL is the country's largest state-owned natural gas processing and distribution company, and the damaged pipeline, the gas supply to which was cut off after the explosion, was used to transport pressurised natural gas for a power plant. There were reports that villagers had complained of negligence as the pipeline had become rusty. Some reports also said a stove in the area might have ignited gas that had leaked from the structure.
Super Hercules crash: Five crew members were killed when an Indian Air Force transport plane crashed near Gwalior in March, jolting the world's fourth-largest air force and exposing cracks in its safety standards. Barely an hour after it took off from the Agra airbase on a training mission, the IAF's US-built C-130J Super Hercules aircraft went down 75 miles west of Gwalior along the Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan border. The crash came a little over three years after the IAF inducted the first of its six C-130J planes, configured for special operations and airborne assault. More than 35 air force planes and helicopters have crashed during the last three years, at a time when the force is grappling with deteriorating force levels. The IAF currently operates 34 fighter squadrons, against a desirable 42.
Hirakud dam tragedy: More than 30 people were killed after a boat capsized in Hirakud Dam reservoir in Odisha's Sambalpur district on February 9. The boat carrying around 100 people was returning from a picnic site. It was flooded with water after developing a snag in its motor pump in the reservoir, about 340 km west of Bhubaneswar. Eyewitnesses said the passengers tried to drain the water from the boat but failed.
Mumbai stampede: At least 17 people, including two children, were killed and 60 others injured in a stampede in Mumbai on January 18 after thousands gathered to pay their last respects to Dawoodi Bohra spiritual leader. The incident occurred outside Saifee Mahal in the Malabar Hills area where almost 80,000 people gathered early morning to pay tributes to spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, who had passed away a day ago at the age of 102.
Andaman boat capsize: At least 21 people were killed after an overcrowded tourist boat capsized in the Andaman Sea in Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on January 26. South Andaman district administration said the boat had a capacity to carry 25 people. It was carrying 46 people comprising tourists from Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu and Mumbai, and crew members.