India in 2008: The year that was

December 25, 2008

Yet another year is coming to an end and independent India’s idea of being a republic is a year older. But is it any wiser?

On many counts, 2008 was both tumultuous and memorable for India, testing its men and the manner in which they confronted the challenges.

It was a year which saw the Manmohan Singh government face some of the toughest questions in its 4-year rule.

For that matter, some of the questions were directed at the people, the polity and the nation itself, which is still on edge after horrific images of a militant rampage on Mumbai made headlines around the world in late November.

It was a promising start to the year with the economy growing at well above 8 pct and the Sensex touching a staggering 21,000 points in late January.

Inflation was the only worry as global crude prices were near the 100-dollar mark.

For its part, the govt was confident about handling inflation and announced a 60,000-crore rupee debt relief package for farmers which became the highlight of the annual budget.

But global crude prices showed no signs of moderation and India’s inflation too crossed the double digit mark.

What added to the govt’s problems was pressure from its coalition allies. The Communist parties pulled out over India’s historic civilian nuclear deal with the United States and the govt’s survival was put to the ultimate test.

But parliamentary politics in India dipped to a new low when wads of cash were whipped out in the well of the house. Opposition MPs claimed money was used to buy support. The allegations did not stick and the Manmohan Singh govt survived the trust vote.

But the problems were mounting. The global subprime crisis took its toll and the stock markets started crashing as FIIs pulled out billions of dollars. The Sensex has lost more than 60 percent this year and is now hovering around the 10,000 mark, making it one of the worst performers in the Asian equity scene.

The economy too was no longer insulated and growth estimates for one of the world’s fastest growing economies have been revised downwards. Multi-billion dollar stimulus packages have been announced and an aggressive rate-cut campaign has been initiated by the Reserve Bank of India. But economists and analysts say more needs to be done to salvage India as the rest of the world sets off on a road to recession.

Corporate India too had its share of highs and lows. While Tata wowed everyone with the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, the company was forced to move its plant out of West Bengal thereby delaying the car’s roll-out.

Investor confidence was on a razor’s edge throughout the year. While India’s top private lender ICICI’s share price dipped more than 70 pct as concerns arose over the health of its books, IT major Satyam Computer Services faced some tough questions about corporate governance after a botched attempt to buy two of its sister firms for $1.6 billion.

Indian airlines struggled too amid soaring fuel costs and dwindling passenger numbers. Carriers like Jet Airways faced staff ire over efforts to downsize and survive.

More than anything else, it was the internal security situation that took a turn for the worse. Hundreds of lives were lost as a series of blasts shook various Indian cities.

If the bombs in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, New Delhi and Guwahati were blamed on Islamist militants, the needle of suspicion in the Malegaon blasts pointed to Hindu extremists. A serving officer of the Indian army is still being interrogated.

But all the violence seemed only a dress rehearsal for what turned out to be the most audacious terror strike in the history of independent India.

Armed assailants held India’s financial capital hostage for nearly three days. 179 people were killed as many of Mumbai’s iconic landmarks including the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Taj Mahal hotel and the Oberoi-Trident came under fire.

The lone surviving attacker said he came from Pakistan and New Delhi has put Islamabad on notice. A worried world is watching and urging restraint as reports emerge of heightened military activity along the border separating the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The man on the street is anxious too. There’s been a clarion call for civilian activism. They want accountability, not just hollow assurances from the political leadership.

Heads did roll. Union home minister Shivraj Patil was asked to go. The Maharashtra CM and home minister were sacked too.

But did it placate the common man? Amid all the tension, five Indian states went to polls and the results showed that development was a bigger election issue than terror. It was a lesson that the main opposition party BJP learnt the hard away.

Its “Congress is soft on terror” campaign failed to win public approval as it tried to mount an assault on the Congress-led coalition ahead of the 2009 general elections.

The biggest surprise of all was the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir which witnessed more than 50 per cent voter turnout.

The turnaround in public opinion comes less than six months after the state was up in arms over the Amarnath land row, some thing  which  led some commentators in New Delhi to even question the worthiness of holding on to Kashmir.

So, does this mean that what had started off a memorable year will turn out to be one best forgotten?

Well, if you look at the sporting arena, it’s actually been a good year for India.

The Indian cricket team started off winning the tri-series in Australia. The success of the inaugural IPL 20/20 league reaffirmed India’s pre-eminence as one of most powerful forces in the world of cricket. India capped its season with home series wins over both World champions Australia and England and many Indians now hope India can actually become no.1 in world cricket.

2008 was also a year that saw Saurav Ganguly leave in a blaze of glory while others like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid did enough to let a demanding but adoring public know that they remain a force to reckon with.

New heroes like Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma emerged, and there was success for other Indian sportsmen too.

Abhinav Bindra made the nation proud winning India’s first individual Gold in shooting at the Beijing Olympics.

While boxers like Vijender Kumar packed a punch, Sushil Kumar grappled both inner fear and pressure to add a bronze from the wrestling mat and make it one of India’s most memorable campaigns in the world’s biggest sporting spectacle.

Jeev Milkha Singh winning the Asian Golf’s Order of Merit and shuttler Saina Nehwal’s meteoric rise in the badminton world brought India more cheer.

In the field of literature, India’s Aravind Adiga won the Man Booker Prize for his novel ‘The White Tiger’, a dark tale about the son of a rickshaw puller who dreams of escaping poverty.

It was only the third time in the Booker’s 40-year history that a debut novel won the award. But the win also raised the question whether only the darker side of contemporary India appealed to Western readers.

So, it has indeed been a rollercoaster year for the country.

But what about 2009? What’s in store for India and Indians?

We’re running a lookahead poll. We’ve posted a few questions in our yearender special.

Do vote… not just on Reuters.co.in but also when India goes to polls next year. Have your say. It might be your and India’s best chance to set things right.

India in 2008: Full Coverage | Memorable quotes from 2008

21 comments

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2008 was definitely one of the most eventful year in the history of India, this year saw rapid economic growth in the first half, simultaneously with global economic melt down led by US , Indian economy was also affected. In sports , Indian sportsperson excelled, for the first time in the history, India received gold in the individual event. Indian boxers have also received medals, first time in the history of India , a south Indian state, Karnataka chose to elect a non- congress govt. By sending an unmanned mission to moon, India has announced its presence to the world. India has also seen some of the worst terrorist attacks in different part of the country, more than 10000 people died in terrorist related violence. 2008 also saw failure of India’s foreign policy, post Mumbai terror attacks , despite strong proof of Pakistani involvement, international community, more particularly US has failed to act on Indian pleas. In the second half of the year, the global economic melt down has its effect on India growth story . On the whole , 2008 was a year of triumph for some and a year of sorrow for some .

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive

I represent the country OF love, peace, tolerance and courage. We have been many time victimize by false claims – I am THE PAKISTANI.
indian media has done its level best and still striving to defeat Pakistan in the race of economy, progress and prosperity, but we have survived all ill-intentions of india – There are tall stories about Pakistan involvement in mumbai attacks, but there exist no evidence – none has been provided either to Pakistan or anyone else in the world. FBI, for instance asked india to bring evidences on the table to prove Pakistan involvement, and infact bring out the black sheep among them. Pakistani Army Chief has slapped the indian forces and politicians by saying we are ready to face any operation whether it is war or otherwise, and this has done in front of the whole world.

Some newspaper all over the world has even said that it is only a drama created by indian themselves just to cast away thier fear towards Pakistan.

Other things you have forgot or may be ignore are indian brutality in occupied Kashmir, indian support to gorillas to fight against Srilanka military

My recommendation to all who dream of Pakistan defeat on any ground is to consult good psychiatrist because this dream of your never comes true.

Long live and prosperous Pakistan.

Posted by Peace | Report as abusive

Great Post My thinking is we got to move ahead for the next decade now & address challenges.

1. Today the population is 1.2 billion, next decade we will be adding around 120 million. Time to think about food security, energy security, law & order etc.

2. India is a 1.2 trillion dollar economy which means GDP per person is close to $1000, how is the planning commission going to bring imagination to raise the GDP to $3000 in the next decade.

3. Which trillion dollar industry are you going to create for the 1.2 billion people through science & technology. How many more cities are you going to add which becomes mega centres like mumbai.delhi etc etc.

4. The bureacracy which will take root will be the 80s recruited taking over from the 70s they won\’t have the baggage, will they overhaul & help political masters.

5. How will you close the gap in backward states which are vastly populated which are behind in many parameters, how will a new nifty fifty group of companies get created in this country.

6. Our intercourse to the external world has to take into account challenging geo political climate, to get over them a strong tax revenue & reforming lethargy are very important.

7. If there is a war we need to have that will we will bounce back & use that as an opportunity of the 21st century as our decade.

As an optimist i think we would as one people one voice make our country great.

Posted by vijay | Report as abusive

Good one,
Do we see any more changes after next Lok sabha elections.

To all my fellow Indians,
My sincere request
In case of War I urge let us shred 10% of our earnings to bridge the for the sake of economy uplift, and to those Solders’ families who would become Martyrs.

I hope our earnings will cover these to some extent. If by any chance any politician or a Government official sees this blog / comments. My sincere request to you guys are please don’t leave all your selfishness a side and help us by joining hands with all of the young Indians to build a responsible India.

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

@peace and also other Pak friends, what kind of news do you read. Or do you create your own news? you are seriously ill informed ill read person on this entire blog. To start I will recommend you to read dawn.com a pakistani news site, read editorials and guest column from that. you will get better idea what pakistani intellectuals think. also read wikipedia for neutral views.

Posted by Manoj | Report as abusive

Madhu,
Can you please remove these filthy posts posted by Ali. I’m not sure whether this person is a literate / educated.

Pakistan has already spoiled it’s land and spoiling others land, for God sake leave the blogs clean.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

We’ve a request to all our readers, especially those who are spewing venom in the online space. Please show restraint and avoid use of abusive language. We will left with no other option but to delete all such messages.

2009 will be an economically tough year for the whole world, specially so for countries like India and china.

With more challenges to overcome hopefully the world will be stronger and more mature at the end of 2009.

asli jat, indian, vijay, peace, ali and all others, please show some restraint in your comments. We understand you are passionate about you countries but this behaviour is not becoming of you. There are plenty of other forums and blogs where you can display your childishness, this is reuters so please maintain some standard.

Posted by belligerent | Report as abusive

Madhu Soman
‘But is it any wiser?’
—Do you have any conviction to think otherwise? Pray do enlighten in what context do you say so…

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

Hi, I am a Pakistani and I would like to congratulate Indian people for India being a success story. I really appreciate your accomplishments in computer and space technologies. Unfortunately the end of the year 2008 brought us to a conflict. I only can hope that sanity prevail. We as Pakistanis need to change our priorities and can learn the democratic norms from India. I think the people who want to live with peace are in majority on both sides of the border. We all must stand up to join hands against irrational behaviors of our leaders. I can feel your pain and disappointment caused by the Bombay attacks. But we are neighbors and have to live together and that is the ultimate destiny whatsoever. Europe despite of so many animities has learnt to live together after two fierce wars. I hope we understand that before it’s too late. Happy New Year.

Posted by munzir | Report as abusive

Good say Munzir,
I too wish to see something like AU(Asian Union) similar to EU. In fact if that happens then I am sure that AU will surely beat EU as most of our traditions, sentiments, lifestyle is much similar that EU.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

- Posted by munzirDecember 27th, 2008
1:09 am GMTI can feel your pain and disappointment
——————————————
No you don’t!! And definitely we don’t care for your feelings and love and sharings. Time for action. What do you think? Next time another massacre of Indian civilians by your terrorists and we’ll seek your
“friendly” feelings. This is utter garbage.

wow nice post but it only speaks good about India… Won’t it be a good idea if we focus on other issues where the government and people need to focus on for coming years?
I would like to focus on few things.
1- Caste System … Indian called themselves biggest democracy in the world where people from all the religion lives peacefully(forgive me if i am wrong).
then who do hindu kill lots of Muslims because of no reason? what’s going on in Kashmir?

2- Caste System… if India is the biggest democracy and hindu in majority.. then what’s this caste system.. who are Shooder? why do you treat them like animals ?

3- Killing Women… in many parts of India… people kill their infant female kids.. that’s why there are more male in india than females.

Indian people and India should focus on these issues as well. Thanks!

Posted by Mudassir | Report as abusive

munzir
— Your refreshing statement acts like a soothing balm on the agitated mind,it reaffirms & keeps Hope alive-that someday good sense shall prevail…

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

@Mudassir, and Pakistanis,
1- Caste System … Indian called themselves biggest democracy in the world where people from all the religion lives peacefully(forgive me if i am wrong).
then who do Hindu kill lots of Muslims because of no reason? what’s going on in Kashmir?
— Indians are not Killing its people in Kashmir, rather we are killing whoever is supporting Pakistan or infiltrated from Pakistan. I am sure this is why Pakistan has pains in her butts.
I want to know who the hell Pakistan is to mess up with Kashmiri Freedom Fighters? Mind your own business is the best remedy to her now. Small Kashmir at the stake of whole Pakistan.

2- Caste System… if India is the biggest democracy and hindu in majority.. then what’s this caste system.. who are Shooder? why do you treat them like animals?
— People who don’t understand Religion, how can they understand Caste System. lol, you don’t even have a single other religion people in good position, of course India has many Muslims and Christians in high position.

3- Killing Women… in many parts of India… people kill their infant female kids.. that’s why there are more male in india than females.
— If India runs out of Females, don’t worry we will Import from Pakistan. Since all your men are becoming Shaheed / Fidaeen in the name of Islam and Pureisitan. lol

BREAKING NEWS:
According to Jang News: ISI and Pakistan Army during Butto and Zia-Ul-Haq time, they have sold Kashmir to China for Importing Missile and Aircraft to its Army.

Enjoy seeing his, and take a backup of this for your children to study about your history.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en  /7/7c/Ralph_Peters_solution_to_Mideast. jpg

Good Luck.
In shah Allah, ek ek Pakistani ko chun chun key Maarenge, Nahi Baakshenge ies baar.

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

There is inherent pain and hope cherished by every indian reflected in this post by soman. But the key to the questions raised by Soman possibly lies in the unfortunate comment posted by Pakistani ‘peace’ who writes: “My recommendation to all who dream of Pakistan defeat on any ground is to consult good psychiatrist because this dream of your never comes true.”
My comment is : “Defeating Pakistan is not the focus of any Indian. Indian’s are aiming for the Moon and focusing on victory by enriching life in all its dimensions. Indians always know that life is all about thinking and working towards victory for life and not for defeat of a set of human mass that today forms Pakistan. And, Mr. Pakistani Peace, meditation and introspection might possibly help sustain life and peace in that piece of Mother Earth called Pakistan.

Happy New Year

Posted by kamal | Report as abusive

Please hand over our country to our indian military… no congress no BJP no other parties… only MILITARY…

Jai Hind…

Posted by Rajesh Mohan | Report as abusive

……………..yaar………say something of your own…..stop repeating what were just said on indian media…………give some evidence……to believe.

Posted by Peace | Report as abusive

I am happy that my effort to clear Pakistan position is being noticed and I am happy that my effort to show the truth to world is effective.
I am more than happy to have comments from indians through which they are showing that they turn faces when truth is presented to them.
My country is smaller in size as compare to thiers but we all have the language of truth which the people of thier country doesn’t have.
I proved that success lies in truth – that’s why they have start attacking the personal image and shifted from commenting on article.

Posted by Peace | Report as abusive

Peace,

Though i do not like to answer you, reality is Pakistan defeated India diplomatically, No one can deny this both the media or the public or the government in india.You should go distribute sweets now.Beleive me there will be a few more terrorist attacks & one day real war will happen. After this incident India will surely make preparations & never will it trust Pakistan again.We may even cancel the world cup in cricket, close down all the communication channels with pakistan & no indian establishment abroad will hire you people or a indian will starve than to work with you.Trust me this is the begining of what you can call nightmare.The coming general elections in india will be the mpst important indicator of people mood.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

2008 was indeed an eventful year. But it had more negatives than positives.
Yes, we had a good stint in Olympics and Cricket. But, we had to face so many terrorist attacks across India. The economic crisis also added to the gloom of the public. In a nutshell, I would consider 2008 to be the year best forgotten.

Posted by Sowmik Sengupta | Report as abusive