They made headlines and became talking points. Their achievements made us proud and their stand made us ponder over several critical issues. Isro scientists who were instrumental behind the successful Mangalyaan mission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, HT raises a toast to the achievers and newsmakers of 2014.
1. Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi took oath as India's 15th Prime Minister in May after BJP sweeped the Lok Sabha polls. From the announcement to scrap Planning Commission to the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, PM Modi took some significant decisions within six months of forming the government.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or the Mangalyaan, a spacecraft orbiting Mars was launched on November 5 by Isro. Mangalyaan is India’s first interplanetary mission. With MOM, India became the first nation to reach Mars orbit in its first attempt and the first Asian nation to do so.
Hundreds of people watched the rocket carrying the Mars orbiter take off from the east-coast island of Sriharikota and streak across the sky. Many more across the country watched live TV broadcasts. But behind such a huge successful launch there's always a team which requires the special mention.
Another feather in Isro's cap was the successful test-firing of country's heaviest rocket GSLV Mark-III on December 18.
The world congratulated Isro's historic feat and congratulated the team who made this possible, and the space agency's scientists made us proud.
HT SPECIAL | Year in review : 2014
3. Kailash Satyarthi
Child rights activist Kaialsh Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 along with Pakistan teenager Malala Yousafzai.
The 60-year-old activist has been heading a more than three-decade long campaign for child rights, pushing for their education and fighting against child trafficking and bonded labour. His organistaion Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) has been at the forefront of the drive against child labour in India for years.
In 1998, he organised the Global March Against Child Labour across 103 countries, which helped pave the way for an International Labor Organization convention on the worst forms of child labour.
4. Irom Sharmila
Rights activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for 14 years, walked free from a make-shift prison in Imphal on August 20. However, she was arrested again after two days on charges of attempt to suicide.
Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for the past 14 years, demanding the repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Known as the Iron lady of Manipur, Sharmila launched her campaign in November 2000 after security forces allegedly gunned down 10 civilians at Malom near Imphal. Police arrested her and kept her in a special ward of a hospital, where they force-fed her.
The AFSPA, which covers large parts of northeastern India and Kashmir, gives security forces sweeping powers to search, enter property and shoot-on-sight and is seen by critics as cover for human rights abuses.
In October 2013 Amnesty India, recognised Sharmila as a 'prisoner of conscience', who is being held solely for a peaceful expression of her beliefs.
5. Vishal Sikka
Vishal Sikka was appointed the new CEO and MD of Infosys in 2014.
Sikka was earlier a member of the executive board of SAP AG, leading all products and driving innovation globally. He has worked closely with leaders of global companies in building breakthrough business solutions.
He holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University, USA.
Born to Punjabi parents in Madhya Pradesh, he has also held key positions in global giants such as all-American Xerox and German SAP, which might help his role in steering innovation while dealing with large service customers.
6. HL Dattu
HL Dattu is the Chief Justice of India. Before his elevation as a judge of the Supreme Court of India, he had served as the chief justice of Kerala high court and Chhattisgarh high court.
Dattu pulled up the Centre over black money issue, asking it to submit the full list of names. “Why are you taking the trouble to investigate? We have taken the responsibility to bring back the (black) money and we will decide the future course (of action),” the CJI said.
7. Ajit Doval
Ajit Doval is the National Security Advisor of India. A 1969-batch Indian Police Service officer of the Kerala cadre, Doval was the former director of the Intelligence Bureau. In 1999, he was the lead negotiator for the release of the IC 814 hostages from Kandahar in Afghanistan.
During the NDA years, under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Doval began to create structures to reform the sharing of information between intelligence agencies.
He set up the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) to help put all the agencies on one table to share real-time information. He also created the Joint Task Force on Intelligence (JTFI) that would concentrate on counter-terrorism.
He was also a strong advocate of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002, that gave sweeping powers to the police to combat terror.
8. Dalbir Singh
Dalbir Singh was appointed the Indian Army chief this year. Prior to this, he was the Vice Chief of army staff.
The Indian Peace Keeping Force operation was one of the defining moments of his 40-year career. His unit was one of the first to be inducted in Sri Lanka in 1987, but suffered more than 20 casualties including the commanding officer and a company commander. Though posted at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun as an instructor at the time, Dalbir Singh volunteered to join his unit in Sri Lanka and was in Jaffna within 24 hours of the tragedy hitting his unit.
9. Neel Mukherjee
British-Indian writer Neel Mukherjee's novel "The Lives of Others" was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014.
The book is based in his birth place of Kolkata and centres around a dysfunctional Ghosh family in the 1960s and the secrets and rivalries within the family against a backdrop of political activism.
His first novel, A Life Apart (2010), won the Vodafone-Crossword Award in India, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award for best fiction, and was shortlisted for the inaugural DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
10. Amit Shah
Amit Shah was appointed the BJP president in July. The 50-year-old, known as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most trusted associate, is credited with singlehandedly winning for his party 71 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the recently held Lok Sabha elections.
Shah became close to PM Modi in the early 1990s. Modi had got him a ticket to contest a bypoll in Sarkhej assembly in Ahmedabad. When Keshubhai Patel was the chief minister, Shah was Modi's key aide in the state and helped his attempts to dethrone Patel.
In 2003, his first big reward came when he was appointed junior home minister with unbridled powers. Shah’s elevation as BJP chief marked a tightening of Modi’s grip over the BJP and, possibly, greater synergy between the government, the party and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.