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Year-ender 2020: Millions walked as India watched

Migrants Workers
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Migrants Workers 

Highlights

  • Mar 25: Mahabharata was won in 18 days, COVID-19 battle will last 21 days: PM Modi
  • May 15: Impossible to monitor who is walking and not walking: SC on migrants crisis

Millions of daily-wage migrants suddenly found themselves without jobs and on streets when the Centre announced lockdown. For many, walking was the only option. Some travelled for a few hundred kilometres, while others covered more than a thousand to go home. Haunting images of hungry migrants trudging hundreds of kilometres on foot, cycles, trucks and trains back to their villages would be difficult to erase from our memories. Sataria Hembrom and six other migrant workers walked almost 1,800 km from Mumbai to reach his home in Chaibasa district in Jharkhand, trekking up to 45 km a day and going without food, sometimes.

On March 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said winning the war against Coronavirus will take 21 days as opposed to the 18 days taken to win the epic war of Mahabharata. He added that while Lord Krishna had guided the Pandavas to victory, the nation was being guided by its 1.3 billion citizens.

On Dec 19, India's Covid-19 caseload surpassed the one crore-mark, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that the unplanned lockdown did not manage to "win the battle in 21 days as the PM claimed", but it "destroyed" millions of lives in the country. More than 96 lakh patients have recovered and 1.46 lakh people have died so far. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) said 515 doctors (Covid warriors) died due to COVID-19 . Dr VK Paul, a NITI Aayog member, had claimed zero new cases from May 16, 2020. Six sitting MLAs and three sitting MPs have succumbed to the virus till date. The biggest name in Covid casualty has been former President Pranab Mukherjee.

The Supreme Court too effectively washed its hands from this humanitarian catastrophe.

The top court declined to entertain a plea seeking direction to the Centre to identify migrants walking on the roads and provide them shelter and food. The court said that it is "impossible for this court to monitor who is walking and not walking".

"Let the state decide. Why should the court hear or decide?" the Supreme Court said as it dismissed the plea.

The decision not to interfere earlier and to have accepted the Solicitor General's statement that there were no migrants on the road is certainly open to criticism, says the former Law Minister and senior advocate

Retired Justice A. P. Shah, said top court "failed to satisfactorily acknowledge that the fundamental rights of migrant labourers have been violated".

Finally, on June 9, the Supreme Court directed all State and Union Territory Governments to identify, register and transport all migrant workers who wish to return to their homes within 15 days.

More than one crore, or 10 million, migrant labourers returned to their home states on foot during March-June 2020, the government said. 81,385 accidents occurred on the roads during the period March-June 2020 with 29,415 fatalities, the Parliament was informed. The Centre said it does not maintain separate data in respect of migrant workers who have died in road accidents during the lockdown. One hundred and ninety eight migrant workers lost their lives in road accidents during the lockdown period, according to data compiled by the SaveLIFE Foundation, a road safety NGO.

The Union Home Ministry had said the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi's Nizamuddin locality in March led to the spread of coronavirus infection. Its members were accused of being 'super spreaders', with terms like 'Corona Jihad' creating a lot of noise.

On December 15, Delhi court acquitted 36 foreigners who were facing trial for allegedly flouting COVID-19 and visa norms whilst attending the event, which had around 9,000 participants.

Some BJP leaders blamed the gathering for the country's worsening Covid situation — senior functionaries of the party and in the government likened the Tablighis to "terrorists", excoriated them "for moving around like a bomb" and described the meet as a "Talibani crime".

India also witnessed intense protests in the national capital against the newly formed citizenship law by the Modi government. This led to some of the most violent communal clashes Delhi had witnessed over the last few decades.

Violence erupted in northeast Delhi on 24 February after hostility between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and protesters spiralled out of control. 53 people died and nearly 200 were left injured.

Feb 24: DELHI RIOTS

Nov 13 BJP's stellar show in Bihar

A stellar performance by the BJP enabled the ruling NDA to attain a simple majority in the Bihar assembly. The saffron party, which had contested 110 seats, won 74 while the JD(U) which fought 115, won only 43. With four seats each won by junior allies HAM and VIP, the NDA had won simple majority with 125 seats.

The opposition Grand Alliance fell way short of the magic mark. The total number of seats won by all its five constituents stood at 110. Nonetheless, the RJD emerged as the single largest party in the assembly bagging 75 seats. The Congress managed to win only 19 of the 70 it had contested. The Left parties, though, sprang a surprise winning 16 out of the 29 seats the CPI(ML), the CPI and the CPI(M) had contested.

BJP in MP won 19 out of the 28 assembly constituencies, giving it a comfortable majority in the House and providing stability to its eight-month-old government. The opposition Congress clinched nine seats. The comfortable victory of the BJP, which needed only eight seats to have a full majority on its own in the 229- member House, will not only provide stability to the party-led government, but also further cement the position of senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who quit the Congress earlier this year and joined the BJP.

Feb 11 AAP reigns supreme

The AAP won 62 seats in the Delhi Election 2020 and claimed the CM throne again for the third time. BJP secured 8 seats, gaining 5 more seats since the 2015. Kejriwal made it clear that his party would focus on issues such as clean water, education, and health. He asserted that AAP would not indulge in negative campaigning. On the other hand, BJP refrained from naming any CM candidate. In the last few days prior to the voting, BJP rakied up Citizenship Amendment Act and the protest at Shaheen Bagh against the legislation

Aug 7 crash: 20 dead

As many as 20 people, including two pilots, were killed and many injured after an Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the runway of Kerala's Karipur airport, plunged down a slope and broke into two pieces

June 16 China kills 20 Indian soldiers

In a major escalation of tensions between India and China, as many as 20 Indian Army personnel were killed in a "violent face off" with Chinese troops in the Galwan area of Ladakh, the Indian Army said. "Seventeen Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the stand off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain succumbed to their injuries, taking the total that were killed in action to 20."

Chinese-Indian border incursions are nothing new: according to the Indian government, 334 "encroachments" have already happened in 2014 (with 411, 426 and 213 incidents in 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively).

Disputed since China annexed all of Tibet in 1950, the border still eludes clarification. India claims about 15,000 square miles of Chinese-controlled territory in Aksai Chin, while China claims Indian Arunachal Pradesh (about 34,000 square miles) as "Southern Tibet".

Farmers on streets

September 15

The farmers' protest is against the three farm acts which were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. The acts have been described as "anti-farmer laws" by many farmer union. Farmers and politicians from the Opposition also say it would leave farmers at the "mercy of corporates".The government, however, maintained that they will make it effortless for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers, and stated protests are based on misinformation.

Soon after the acts were introduced, unions began holding local protests, mostly in Punjab. After two months of protests, farmers— notably from Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana— began a movement named 'Dilli Chalo' , in which tens of thousands of farmers marched towards the nation's capital. Police and law enforcement used water cannons and tear gas to prevent the farmers from entering Delhi. On 26 November, a nationwide general strike that, according to the trade unions, reportedly involved approximately 250 million people took place in support of the farmers according to the trade unions that organised the protests.

The Supreme Court said it recognises the farmers' fundamental right to protest, but at the same time, it cannot affect other fundamental rights or the right to life of others, reported Live Law. "A protest can be constitutional till it does not destroy property or endanger life," said the top court.

So far, 41 farmers have died in Punjab as well as Delhi since September 15 when protests against farm laws intensified in Punjab and Haryana. Of these, 30 were from Malwa belt alone, six from Doaba belt, two from Majha belt and three from Haryana.

A Sikh priest committed suicide and another farmer passing away due to the cold weather.

Pandemic has changed education forever

The COVID-19 has resulted in schools shut all across the country. Globally, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom.

As a result, education has changed dramatically, with the distinctive rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms. The classroom will be supplemented by online coursework. This way, students may be required to physically attend classes on fewer days and will be free to study at their own pace from home. This will also give them sufficient time to assimilate information. All the teachers will have to be trained for online teaching as well along with classroom teaching. This will go a long way to ensure that they are comfortable with technology and will be able to effortlessly switch between online and offline modes of teaching the curriculum. And above all, teachers will feel empowered to deliver a more impactful lecture than before. With information readily available just a click away, the role of a teacher from that of a 'knowledge-giver' will gradually move to one of a facilitator. This will help the teachers focus more effectively on teaching and course improvement.

Physical classrooms offer a high degree of interactivity with the teacher and also among students. Educators will have to bring in a lot of innovations to bring in the element of interactivity and collaboration in their e-learning modules.

Soon, educators will have to discard the 'one-size-fits-all' approach that is mostly followed in traditional classrooms and use technology to offer a learning experience that is uniquely suited to a child's learning needs. The blended approach to learning, in turn, will help all types of students, since they will have the opportunity to engage with different types of content such as video, audio, presentations, thereby increasing the ability to personalize learning.

March 20: Justice for Nirbhaya

More than seven years after a 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped in a moving bus in Delhi, four men convicted for the brutal assault were hanged . The four men -- Akshay Kumar Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh -- were hanged at 5:30 am at Delhi's Tihar Jail, hours after the Supreme Court, in a midnight hearing, refused to grant them relief and stay their executions. The four were hanged simultaneously, a first in Tihar Jail's history. On board the bus, the woman and her friend were assaulted by a group of six people. The woman, who was gang-rape, died two weeks later. The brutal nature of the attack led to country-wide protests and forced the government to set up a commission to review the country's laws on rape and crime and against women. The commission's review ultimately led to laws prescribing stricter punishments for crimes against women.

Six people were accused of gang-raping and murdering the 23-year-old medical student, who came to be called Nirbhaya. Of the six, one was a juvenile and was convicted by the juvenile justice board. He served three years in a reformation home and was released.

Of the remaining five, one committed suicide in jail. The four others were convicted by a trial court and sentenced to die.

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