The year 2016 ends on irony. Even if a year ends on a gloomy note, it leaves a brighter side to hope for. As ‘there can never be a night which will not end in sunrise’, there had never been a year-end in the recent past which had not left enough hope for a better New Year. Ironically, the desperation and despondency that marked 2016 is spilling over to 2017, offering no light at the end of the tunnel. This is because agonies of demonetization, the biggest devastation to hit the country in several years, do not seem to end in the 50-day period as promised by none else but Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Neither any responsible person from the government is ready to stick one’s neck out as to when the economic tsunami will subside.
Every year ends up with many hits and misses. But, as we rewind the outgoing year, the NDA government earned more brickbats than bouquets. It is a rare year that left people of every strata of life suppressed and depressed. The farmers continued to suffer from crop failures and low prices. Peasant suicides kept its upward journey with 40 per cent jump with Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telengana earning the dubious distinction of toppers. Job creation was lower than in 2015. The government is reaching nowhere close to its target of one crore jobs Mr Modi had promised during his election speeches in 2014. Many social sectors were at the receiving end with heavy cut in funds in the budget. If we are to go by a reported letter written by some economists to the Prime Minister, the fate of MGNREGS, one of the prime anti-poverty programmes, hangs in balance.
The scene was no different in education and specialized fields. The unprecedented incidents at prestigious institutions like JNU and Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, will remain ‘black chapters’ in the annals of history. In both places, pseudo-nationalists of the Hindutva forces were at fault. The country witnessed blatant attempts to trample upon institutions which functioned independently and promoted free speech. At another realm, ‘gau rakshaks’ played havoc, killing and maiming people. The outrageous ‘beef controversy’ made the country hang its head in shame as innocent people were done to death.
It speaks volumes of the government’s ‘I don’t care attitude’ that the Goods and Services Tax passed by Parliament and was seen as a fait accompli looks like not happening anytime soon. It was one of the worst years for NGOs. The government went all guns blazing against them. It was equally a ‘black year’ for human rights activists, many of whom got killed or put behind bars. The saffron party’s spin doctors went overboard to spread success stories of Mr Modi’s tours abroad. But in most cases, the outcome was nothing to boast about. Even the much publicized membership of Nuclear Suppliers’ Group came a cropper. The stature of a nation depends on the status of its common man and not on the height of statues put up at isolated locations. In the end, 2016 passes on the baton to New Year with less hope and more apprehension.(Published on 02nd January 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 1)#