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The year 2018 shows a glimpse of some past events that hold far greater significance, in ways, it can serve as lessons emanating from bad episodes, at the same time reflect upon some good moments recorded within the same timeframe. These lessons show us a way forward to revisit and re-examine the issues that are central to political, economic and social spectrums that define the complexities of the administrative system. Marked by episodes of community clashes, institutional crisis and violent protests, gave further passage to more conflicts and chaos that have shaken the roots of its democratic setup. Insight into past events has always provided the opportunity to change accordingly, evolve the system and proceed in a way that benefits the whole nation.

In the domain of space and technology, India has consolidated its position among other developed Nations, credited with launching many successful space missions. 2018 marked new beginnings for Indian space agency; political sanction for a manned Gaganyaan mission, Operationalization of the heaviest rocket, steps to licence out lithium-ion battery technology, the introduction of new technologies in rockets and satellites and the decision to go ahead with Indian Data Relay Satellite System.

Another proud moment came with the induction of the first ever all-female SWAT team. In August, India’s first all-female commando team was formally inducted into the Delhi Police by Union Minister, Rajnath Singh. Breaking the gender stereotypes, this team made history by breaking the male hold on the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team in the country. Adding to the list is Avani Chaturvedi, becoming the first woman in India to fly a fighter jet alone.

These moments of glory reinstate our belief in the strong foundation of unity and striving for excellence in diverse fields, inspiring individuals to aim higher and present their skills at the national and further on an international level. Example, Vikas Sathaye, Pune born engineer, who won an OSCAR for Science and Technology. He and his team are credited with the conceptualization, designing, engineering and implementation of ‘Shotover K1 camera system’, used in aerial filming. Besides, credits are equally earned through attempt made towards bringing an adequate environment for the attainment of individual rights. Recent Supreme Court ruling on section 377 decriminalizing gay sex has ascertained that even LGBTQ community members have basic constitutional rights like others. Another such case is the Sabarimala case verdict in which the Supreme Court stated that women cannot be discriminated against men on religious grounds, laying emphasis on gender equality. These verdicts, no less than a moment of pride for the country was well celebrated and is a sign of gearing towards a more adaptable and inclusive society. Such transformations marked by the evolution of values and belief systems with time serve as testaments for the system that remains intact during the test of time, which can otherwise crumble down. In the past months, there has been a frequent occurrence of violent incidents, also, that requires important mention.

The year 2018 also witnessed the demise of prominent personalities who left their legacies behind. Famous Indian personalities including former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha speaker, were respectable and inspirational figures known for their work and achievements in the political sphere. The film industry also suffered a great loss after the demise of two of its very popular artists, Sridevi and Rita Bahaduri, who contributed immensely to the Indian cinema. Some other renowned figures from around the world like former US President, G. W. Bush, former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, Stephen Hawking have left behind the memoirs of their work and credits that they received during their lifetime.

Vigilante violence has seen an upsurge in the recent past. On September 2017, the Supreme Court, responding to a Public Interest Litigation, directed all State governments to take measures to prevent vigilantism in the name of cow protection. However, mob lynching or vigilante violence hasn’t subsided; in fact, it has spread from Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. Cow vigilantism has been on the rise and now the situation has turned worse not only for the target individual but also for the one who intervenes during heated episodes. A recent example is that of a police station house officer, who was killed in clashes over cow slaughter, recording mob violence episode from Bulandshahr. With a number of cow vigilantism cases registered with the authority, it is important that stringent measures are put in place to avoid such law and order problem in future.

Bhima Koregaon violence is another such episode that points out to faulty administrative control, which could otherwise have avoided the violence that ensued. Bhima Koregaon incident took place on 2 January 2018 which was marked by violence after the 200th celebration of Bhima Koregaon battle. The state machinery failed to anticipate the potential trouble breaking out in this incident. Lack of security proportionate to the gathering of people, lack of political will over caste tensions were the reasons that posed law and order problem.

Credibility crisis is another significant concern with regard to the reputed institutions of the country lately. In the last few years, questions have been directed at CBI and its misuse under the government. Pertaining to arguments put forth with respect to appointment and functioning of the director whether it can be intervened with, without a sanction from the committee. Also, whether the Central Vigilance Commission can investigate a sitting director in this regard. A similar institutional crisis was recently evident when Justice Chelameshwar pointed some irregularities in the judicial system. This encompassed issues related to the appointment of judges to the Supreme court and the unregulated power of the Chief Justice. This episode witnessed two sides, setting up separate benches for deciding on cases, indicating to a haphazard situation that has crept into the judiciary. Both these instances give us insights into how these institutions are evidently failing in their task of investigation and delivery of justice, where responsibility bearers themselves are engaged more in quarrelling among themselves.

In line with overlooked issues, one such area is the use of violence against girls and women. Something that continues to happen in the absence of adequate implementation measures, prerequisite measures that should have already been taken in this regard. Despite laws put in place, justice remains outside the reach of victims who continue to suffer at the hands of insensitive police officials taking down their statements, or in forms of degrading medical tests or being subjected to societal pressures. This injustice indicates serious flaws that run in our present Criminal Justice System. The reports on the incidents of rape have added more victims to the record, and, present revelations have now brought shelter homes under the probe. Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has uncovered the story of girls who were physically and sexually abused in Bihar shelter homes which led to a further revelation of the ground reality of shelter homes in other zones including UP, Assam and other places.

Campaigns like #Metoo has also gained prominence in the public forums especially on social media platforms. A movement directed against any kind of sexual violence has been traced through the phrase ‘Me too’  used as early as 2006 by Tarana Burke, an American social activist. Later, popularized by Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano when sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced. A moment graduating to a full-fledged movement saw millions of supporters online and some even sharing their own personal experiences on online platforms. #Metoo served as an Offshoot in context of India when Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. But, this movement did not restrict to film industry alone and pinned down names of the accused from government and media as well.

The occurrence of such incidents points to the organized form of violence that continues to render our values and systems hollow. Restructuring laws, proper implementation and ensuring proper functioning of administrative machinery can be designed in a way that they complement each other. Though a lot depends on the will of the people as well as the authority responsible for the maintenance of peace and the safety of its people. Even though our systems have survived so far and, we, as individuals continue to live with the present systems, but, the real question is whether it is strong enough to meet the aspirations of the people in the coming years. A slight transition can somehow address this predicament. Transforming our way into 2019 can call for new objectives, better protection of rights of the people and envisage proper institutional measures for greater happiness and development of people in a more holistic manner.

Recent accolades in the field of sports equally accounted for many proud moments in the honour of the country. India’s National blind cricket team winning the 2018 blind cricket World Cup. Dipa Karmakar created history by becoming first Indian gymnast to clinch gold at a global event, at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup held in Turkey. Others to receive accolades this year included Ramon Magsaysay Award awardees, Sonam Wangchuk, who used science to improve lives of youth in Ladakh and Bharat Vaswani, a psychiatrist for her work towards mentally ill street people. These contributions further our scope of progressing as a nation because it signifies how knowledge as a precious resource gets utilized to bring benefit to the common people. This progression from 2018 onto the next year builds up the hope for achieving more and excelling on the previous shortcomings.

 

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Image Credit: The New Indian Express

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Written By AISHWARYA BHANDARI

Exploring more in the domain of Human Rights.

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