2016 hasn’t been the best year. It saw heartbreaking conflict, economic repercussions, Brexit, US Election results, demonetisation, and the death of so many notable talents. Most of us are happy to see the year end.
But there were a few things, in India and around the world that saved it from being the shittiest year in history.
Let’s admit, dogs make everything better. After 26 long years, 36 Indian canine soldiers, consisting of 24 Labradors and 12 German Shepherds marched down Rajpath during the 67th Republic Day parade. It was adorable.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of India accepted to receive a curative petition to review its December 2013 judgement on Section 377 that criminalised homosexuality in India. There haven’t been any updates on this front lately, but it’s a small ray of hope towards equality, and we’ll take it.
For the first time in a hundred years, the population of tigers in the world increased. According to the World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum, 2016 saw 690 more tigers, with the total numbers rising to 3890. In India – the country with the largest tiger population – the population of tigers rose from 1706 in 2010 to 2226. Seeing that the number of big cats was at an all-time low till only six years ago, this is great news!
For anyone who says we don’t care about the environment, volunteers from Uttar Pradesh sure had a response. As part of the commitment made by India at the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015, about 800,000 people from UP, planted a mind-blowing 49.3 million saplings in 24 hours in July this year. With pollution levels rising across the world, this step shows that we do want a better tomorrow. Also, this plantation drive has also made a Guinness World Record – double joy.
In the late 1980s, scientists discovered a gigantic hole in the ozone layer (the atmospheric layer that protects us from deadly solar radiation). Several steps were taken to improve the situation, starting with the banning of harmful chemicals like CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) as part of the Montreal Protocol. 30 years later, efforts to reverse this damage is finally showing, the hole in the layer seems to be shrinking. While it will take a couple more decades for it to heal completely, at least the process has begun, and we won’t get fried by the Sun.
Creating history, three female pilots — Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh were inducted in Indian Air Force fighter squadron in June. While combat roles in the Army and Navy still remain off limits for women, the IAF has hopefully set the benchmark for encouraging women in defence services.
Sakshi Malik became the first female wrestler to win an Olympic medal for India after she bagged the bronze in the 58kg category. Shuttler PV Sindhu on the other hand, not only brought home India’s first silver in badminton, she is the youngest Indian (at 21) and the first woman to do so! Even though Dipa Karmakar narrowly missed a medal in the women’s vaults finals, she is the most successful Indian gymnast, and her 4th place comes after a lot of praiseworthy hard work.
In one of its most successful Paralympics, India brought home 2 gold, one silver a one bronze medal in 2016.
Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati won a gold and bronze medal respectively in the men’s high jump T-42 event, with Thangavelu jumping to an impressive 1.89 metres, and Bhati closely following at 1.86 metres. The silver medal came from Deepa Malik in the women’s shot put F53 event. Apart from becoming India’s first medal winning female para-athlete, she is also the oldest Indian to win a medal at the Olympics.
The second gold was won thanks to Devendra Jhajhariya who broke his own world record to win the men’s Javelin throw event.
With a tally of four medals, India’s 19 member contingent was super successful at Rio.
The successful launch of the 727.5 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite along with 19 co-passenger satellites marked win number 36 for ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in June. With 20 satellites launched, ISRO set a record in its space programme. According to The Indian Express, “Cartosat-2 series satellite will provide regular remote sensing services with its panchromatic and multispectral cameras and its imagery will be of multiple use.” The other 19 satellites are from USA, Canada, Germany and Indonesia.
According to an assessment by the government, the country won’t need any new power plants for the next three years since “it is flush with generation capacity”. While this doesn’t solve the power crisis we face every year, it shows that we have the resources, we just need to use them better.
In a big step towards maternal and child healthcare, India was declared Yaws and maternal and neonatal tetanus-free by the World Health Organisation in September. Yaws is a serious disease, primarily affecting the low-income areas. It starts with the skin and often spreads to the bones. India is the first country in the world to being acknowledged as Yaws free by the WHO, it also met its target of eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus in April, eight months before its December deadline. Added to the fact the maternal and infant mortality rate has been on the decline, we have big reasons to cheer!
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been using her Twitter account to help Indians across the world. This year especially, she was actively involved in the rescue of Indians stuck in conflict zones, foreign tourists stranded in India or Indians who lost their passports abroad.
Even when she was admitted to the hospital to undergo a kidney transplant surgery and was on dialysis, she continued to continue her amazing work.
Swaraj’s dedication goes out to dispel the myth that sarkari mantris never do any productive work. More power to you, Sushmaji!
Huda, a Pakistani Muslim woman and Maneet, an Indian Jain man, had more than one barrier in their love story. But the couple persevered, fought their parents’ age-old beliefs, and ultimately had a beautiful wedding. It’s always nice to see love win.
Yes, it’s true that we saw terrible movies like “Befikre”, “Baar Baar Dekho” and “Mohenjodaro” in 2016. But it is also true that this is the year Bollywood took great strides in making commercial cinema with a social message. While movies like “Aligarh” and “Kapoor & Sons” dealt with homosexuality in India (in their own different way), we saw a powerful “Pink” which brought up the ever important message of consent. Then there was “Nil Battey Sannata” – a beautiful movie about a single mother who works as a domestic worker, and her aspirations for her only daughter. Bringing the year to an empowering close is “Dangal” – the inspiring story of how Mahavir Phogat broke stereotypes in a patriarchal Haryana village when he decided to train his daughters as wrestlers.
In July, four Dalit men in Gujarat were flogged in public by self-proclaimed ‘Gau-rakshaks’ for skinning a dead cow. This triggered an unprecedented protest in the state with the Dalit communities that have been oppressed for centuries calling out the discrimination they face to this day. With the rise of Dalit leaders like Jignesh Mevani who led the Una protest, it looks like we are finally ready to challenge caste oppression.
Read YKA’s interview with Jignesh Mevani here.
The world’s largest solar power plant was recently opened in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu. Spreading over 10 sq km and with a capacity of 648MW, it can power up to 150,000 homes when at full capacity. This was also the year that Kochi airport in Kerala became the first in the world to be completely powered by solar energy. This is a huge step India is taking – away from fossil fuel and towards clean energy. Good going!
From the formation of the first Indian band with all transgender members, the first modelling agency for transgender people, to the inauguration of the first school for transgender people, the community can now access opportunities that were earlier denied to them because of their gender identity.
After 500 and 1000 Rupee notes were banned, what followed were long lines at the ATM and a frantic rush to the bank. Tempers obviously ran high, and so did frustration. In the face of this adversity, small gestures proved how kindness is still alive in Indians.
In a video that was widely shared on Facebook, you get to see an elderly woman handing out roses to employees of a State Bank of India branch in Lucknow for the extra effort they had to put in. Seeing that 11 officers died due to the stress they faced at work during this time, I’m sure this simple thank you made a big impact.
Sikh volunteers served tea and refreshments to those who had to wait for hours outside banks.
Amazing! Lot of volunteers are supporting common man in filling their exchange forms outside Banks. Asked who are you? They said INDIANS🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/zGjfiZVJdI
— Tanmay Shankar (@Shanktan) November 12, 2016
Food joints like Pizza Hut and Subway also chipped in by visiting bank branches in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to offer food and beverage to the overworked staff.See? 2016 didn’t completely suck. Let’s part on good terms, and hope 2017 turns out to be better!