His Majesty's Views

2011 in retrospect

Yet another year has gone by and a New Year has dawned and it is time to take stock of the year that has receded into history. Looking at 2011, the top-of-the-mind recall would certainly have India’s World Cup victory, the scams and the arrests of high-profile politicians and corporate honchos, the Lokpal movement and the global economic crisis. Let us take a brief look at the issues and what they portend for 2012.

Starting on a positive note, the Indian cricket team fulfilled the dreams of the billion-plus country by winning the World Cup. The nation celebrated the victory, coming after 28 long years of wait, after Kapil’s Devils did the unexpected in 1983. Dhoni’s cool captaincy and good team work and Yuvaraj Singh’s exploits brought India home.

The year also saw a whitewash of the Indian cricket team by England in the Test series in England. The Indian team was knocked out of the No 1 Test ranking. It was little consolation that India could beat England at home and the year did not end promising either as the Indians crashed to defeat against the not–so-highly-rated Aussies in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne. It is a pity that the Indian team did not live up to expectations Down Under.

The year was marked by another sporting controversy – the doping issue of Indian women athletes. The end of the year saw confirmation of the indictment but with a ray of hope that they might still be in a position to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012. The highs reached by the Indian athletes at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 need to be sustained at the Olympics to give India some sense of respectability in the international sporting arena. Such doping scandals do not help at all.

Turning to the political front, two women ascended the throne in their respective states. Mamata Banerjee rode to power in West Bengal, dislodging 34 years of Left Front rule. The inimitable Didi has achieved her ambition of unseating the Marxists and it remains to be seen how she will be able to deliver her promises to Bengal. The friendly Central government would certainly be of great help to her but the problems that she has set upon to solve are many and complex.

Down south, Jayalalithaa returned to power in Tamil Nadu, unseating the DMK. Was it a regular swing of the pendulum or a strident rejection of DMK’s perceived family rule is a moot point. The magnitude of Jaya’s success has washed the entire Opposition off. The end of the year also saw Jaya expelling her companion Sasikala and her family members from the party in a dramatic move. The year 2012 is pregnant with possibilities on the political scene and we shall look at a couple of main issues engaging the state, later in the article.

This was the year of Anna Hazare and his movement against corruption. He caught the imagination of the entire nation with his strong thrust for a powerful anti-corruption ombudsman, called the Lokpal. With two fasts he brought the Government of India to respond and bring in the legislation that was left in limbo for over four decades. Raging controversies marked the entire movement and the government piloted a Lokpal bill through the Lok Sabha but failed to get it through the Rajya Sabha in an extended winter session. The blame game for the failure was heard through the New Year but the country watches with bated breath for a strong and effective anti-corruption mechanism in the New Year.

The year 2011 could certainly go down in the annals of history as the year when the high and mighty were brought to book for their misdemeanours. The scams that hit the country in 2010 had a natural fallout with the arrest of high-profile politicians and corporate executives. The Commonwealth Games scams and the 2G spectrum scam continued to hog the limelight. With the apex court monitoring, the follow-up action was perceptible. The year 2012 should see the law taking its own course and the guilty punished. This should set a good example and have a salutary impact on the scheme of things.

The year also turned out to be a year of global economic crisis. After the 2008 crisis, 2011 also had major problems with the American economy slowing down and crisis in the Euro zone. The Indian economy also felt the shocks and the Indian growth story started suffering a setback. The GDP growth forecasts were revised downwards continuously and the present forecast is in the neighbourhood of 7 per cent.

Inflation continued to rule high through the year and food inflation was remarkably severe. Inflation impacted growth and infrastructure and growth suffered particularly. The rupee depreciated alarmingly and was one of the top currencies in terms of decline at 16 per cent over a year. The government was accused of policy paralysis as the reforms agenda lay in hibernation.

The government tried to unshackle from the hibernation by bringing in FDI in retail and moving ahead with financial sector reforms such as the Pension Bill. Stiff opposition from the allies and the Opposition has made the government retract and pause. The paralysis stigma has stuck and one hopes the government will shed it sooner than later. The government has began the New Year by allowing foreign investors to directly invest and whether it would be a harbinger of things to come is to be seen.

The Tamil fishermen issue dominated the political horizon in Tamil Nadu through the year with constant attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy. This issue got overshadowed by the row over the Mullaiperiyar dam with Kerala and the anti-nuclear agitation by the locals at Koodankulam. These two issues took centrestage in the last quarter of 2011 with Koodankulam being in the news in the early part of the quarter and the dam row in the later part.

Sentiments have been ruling high and both the issues need to be settled expeditiously as they impinge on the energy and water resources that are so crucial to the state. The Central government, one hopes, would resolve the nuclear power issue in the New Year while the dam issue is in the hands of the judiciary. Tamil Nadu could pray for quick resolutions for both crises.

The year 2011 would be remembered by posterity for the anti-corruption crusade, while it is hoped that 2012 would bring economic prosperity back on its rails, as we bid adieu to 2011 and usher in 2012.

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