Cover Story: The year that was

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14-15As we bid adieu to 2016 and welcome 2017, it is time to take stock of personalities and events that made an epoch making impact in the year to suggest where we have been and where we are heading to.

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi remains unchallenged No.1 despite complete washout of the Parliament by opposition after demonetization drive. He continues to be the epicenter of power and enjoys public support across all demographic groups, both men and women and among all age and income groups.

As prime minister of world’s largest democracy, Modi’s personal popularity remains intact. Demonetization may have caused pain, loss of jobs and resultant impact on economy, but Modi continues to be adored by poor and a majority hopes that “the bold step would remove corruption, end black money and resurrect poor and underprivileged. Only a bold PM with 56-inch chest, who is a beacon of hope can order demonetization and surgical strikes”. Little doubt that the opposition sponsored protests across the country against Modi failed to have a major impact while people stood in queues waiting for complete salvation. No doubt there were questions galore in public domain as to why only public was being asked to go cashless and disclose source of money?

Why are political parties not being asked to reveal source of funding, go cashless and do all spending through banking instruments?

Interestingly while it was Modi who stood firm as No. 1 among all personalities in India during 2016, clearly it was woman power to the fore during the year gone by as seven of the top 10 personalities who were searched for on Google in India were women. The list included Olympians P.V.Sindhu, Dipa Karmakar and Sakshi Malik. Surprisingly, after Modi it was Trump whose historic win in the US elections was second most searched personality in India on google. Yahoo India Year in Review 2016 too found PM Modi named most searched politician and Sunny Leone the most searched personality. Sunny Leone (real name Karenjit Kaur Vohra alias Karen Malhotra) is an Indian Canadian actress and former porn star.

Interestingly, among the top trending personalities on social media, a non-existent Sonam Gupta was a surprise No. 3

Non-existent Sonam Gupta

Interestingly, among the top trending personalities in India, a non-existent, Sonam Gupta, the latest social media obsession, was a surprise No. 3. What started as a joke, Sonam Gupta quickly became a household name. The phrase “Sonam Gupta Bewafa hai” (Sonam Gupta is not loyal) was first seen circulating on an old Rs 10 note. Later, it appeared on some of the new notes after demonetization. Many commercial establishments announced special discounts for all those with the name Sonam to make merry while the sun shone on Sonam Gupta.

Gymnast, Dipa Karmakar occupied the fourth spot. She made the country proud by being the first female gymnast from India to ever participate in Olympics. Though she missed the medal by a whisker, she provided Indian gymnastics, moments of glory. The 22 year young gymnast from Tripura became the toast of a cricket crazy nation by finishing fourth at Rio Olympics. She is one of the five women gymnasts who have successfully landed the Produnova, regarded as the most difficult vault currently performed in gymnastics. She won a bronze medal at Asian Gymnastics Championship, first for India. The first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics and the first gymnast of either sex from India to qualify for Olympics since Tokyo 1964, she has been conferred the Khel Ratna.

Sakshi Malik, who won the bronze medal in the 58 kg category at the Rio Olympics, the first Indian female wrestler to win a medal at the Olympics emerged among the women achievers in 2016. The Rohtak (Haryana) girl scripted history by becoming first woman wrestler from India to win an Olympic medal in wrestling. The story of 23-year old girl from Mokhra village who began her training at the age of 12 in the region where wrestling is considered only for boys. By the age of 18, she had begun her journey for Olympics when she won bronze medal at Junior World Championship in 2010. In 2014, she won Gold medal at Dave Schultz International Wrestling Tournament. Same year she won a Silver medal in Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Next year she won Bronze at Asian Wrestling Championship in Doha and in 2016 she won Bronze at Spanish Grand Prix.

Among other women celebrities, former beauty pageant contestant Pooja Hegde and film actress and model Disha Patani who appeared in recent movie on M.S.Dhoni, the story of cricket team captain made news. At the fag end of 2016, Karun Nair from Karnataka made history by scoring a Test triple century. Not only he entered a triple century club that was long occupied by dashing Virender Sehwag, but became the quickest to bring up a triple century, taking just three innings to reach the milestone. For Test skipper, Virat Kohli, the 2016 ended with a bang as he commented that it is “just the foundation” for the team’s future.

“It’s been a memorable 2016 for us, but it’s just the beginning. It’s not even a tiny bit of what we want to achieve”. As the year was coming to a close, India’s victory in Junior Hockey World Cup gave us something to cheer. The juniors defeated Belgium in the final and were not overawed by the pressure of playing a World Cup final. India’s win after 15 years (first was in 2001) heralds good times for Indian hockey.

Bank-1Demonetisation

As far as news moments are concerned, demonetization announced in an unscheduled address by the Prime Minister on November 8, 2016 topped the charts. The announcement that currency notes of 500 and 1000 would cease to be legal tenders after midnight was the most discussed and debated news. The subsequent announcements by the Prime Minister, Modi, Fin wance Minister, Arun Jaitley and RBI made it to the top news. Trump’s historic win in the US polls and Brexit, the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union, were also among the most popular searches. High on the ranks was Vijay Mallya, the tycoon who owed banks over a billion dollars, who quietly left the country to settle down in UK. Quite expectedly the dramatic exit of Cyrus Mistry from Tata Group, Reliance Jio’s 4G network launch, and the introduction of GST, were the most searched events of the year.

Surgical strikes

The Indian Army’s surgical strike on terror groups across the Line of Control were also among the top 10 news moments of the year. Yahoo said that “The Unnamed Soldier” who remained perennially at the forefront of national consciousness emerged as the “personality of the year”. “From thwarting a terrorist infiltration into the Pathankot Air Force Station to facing September’s militant attack in Uri that led to a precise and surgical retaliation from India, or being in the midst of the controversy surrounding the One Rank-One Pension scheme, the soldier was in the news all year long”.

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