Farewell 2021: Your A to Z guide of the biggest news events of the year

What can we say about 2021! The year gave us some moments that have changed the world for good, some for the better and some for the worse....

What can we say about 2021!

The year gave us some moments that have changed the world for good, some for the better and some for the worse.

As we turn the page of the calendar and make new resolutions (which shall be broken in no time at all), here's a look back at all the big stories that made 2021 the year it was. From Aryan Khan's arrest to the Uttarakhand floods, to Mamata Banerjee's resounding victory in Bengal, to the Punjab Congress drama, it's been a year we won't forget.

While it may seem hard to believe that all this happened in 365 days, here’s our take, letter by letter, on everyone and everything that defined this year.

A — Aryan Khan

Aryan Khan, son of actor Shah Rukh Khan, escorted to court by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officials. AFP

In October, Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan was arrested in connection to a drug bust aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) arrested him and he had to spend almost three weeks in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail. He was released on bail on 28 October.

Please read: What Aryan Khan supporters need to know about NDPS Act and India's drug war

The case took a dramatic turn involving extortion allegations against NCB investigators. Maharashtra minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik claimed that Shah Rukh Khan’s son was “kidnapped” by NCB officer Sameer Wankhede for ransom. Malik triggered a political storm in the state with his claims, as he alleged the Bharatiya Janata Party’s involvement in Aryan’s arrest.

B — Bipin Rawat's demise

File image of the coffin containing the mortal remains of Indian defence chief General Bipin Rawat is transported to a funeral site in a gun carriage procession in New Delhi. AFP

On 8 December, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat was killed in a chopper crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. Along with General Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 12 other defence personnel were also killed.

The country was left shell-shocked when it lost one of its finest soldiers, General Rawat, who Prime Minister Narendra Modi described as an 'outstanding soldier, a true patriot and someone who greatly contributed to modernising the Indian Armed Forces'.

C — Capitol Hill riots in the US

Supporters of Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the US Capitol in Washington as they try to storm the building on 6 January. AP

United States president Donald Trump’s relentless efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election took a dangerous turn in early January when an armed and angry mob of his supporters stormed Capitol Hill and clashed with police just as Congress convened to validate Joe Biden’s presidential win.

Rioters wielding "Make America Great Again" hats and Trump flags breached Capitol barricades, smashed windows and scaled the building's balconies, prompting Vice President Mike Pence to be swept to a secure location and the Senate chamber to be evacuated.

A woman was fatally shot in the violence in what was later called as one of the worst security breaches in US history and the "darkest day in American democracy".

D — Delta variant ravages the world

Health workers conduct COVID-19 tests at the St Vincent's Hospital drive-through testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. AFP

If 2021 had to be described, one could say it was the year of coronavirus variants. Alpha and Beta kicked off the year, and several worrisome variants later Omicron is closing it out.

But one variant, which rose to global dominance midyear in a way variants like Alpha and Beta never did and continues to largely define the pandemic right now is the Delta variant.

First spotted in India in October 2020, it quickly swept around the world, overwhelming health care systems, tearing through unvaccinated populations and showing that even the vaccinated were vulnerable, causing some breakthrough cases.

We now effectively have two pandemics happening in parallel, with levels of Delta remaining high even as Omicron spreads. What does appear clear is that 2022 is going to begin with a massive global wave of COVID-19.

E — EverGiven blocks the Suez Canal

Tug boats and dredgers attempt to free the MV Ever Given on 26 March in the Suez Canal. AFP

In March, a skyscraper-size ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking one of the world’s busiest trade routes in both directions. The 1,312-foot, 220,000 ton Ever Given, nearly a quarter-mile long, created a shipper's nightmare and captured the public's imagination when it blocked the canal on 23 March.

It created a traffic jam of more than 360 ships.

Finally, after tiring efforts and a supermoon that brought high tides, the container ship was dislodged on 29 March and allowed the passage of other ships too.

F — Farm laws repealed

Farmers celebrate after Prime Minister announced to repeal three agricultural reform laws that sparked almost a year of huge protests by farmers across the country in Singhu. AFP

It was considered as one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biggest defeats in 2021. After over a year of protests, farmers celebrated when the prime minister made a televised announcement that his government was repealing the controversial farm laws, saying, "We haven't been able to explain to our farmers. This is not a time to blame anyone. I want to tell you that we have taken the farm laws back. We are repealing the farm laws."

The farmers' union termed the repeal of three agricultural laws by Parliament as a historic victory.

Please read: Farm law repeal: Lessons for Narendra Modi and his government

While some said it was a loss to Narendra Modi's image, others opined that his decision would reap him benefits in the upcoming Assembly polls.

It's left to be seen what happens, but we do know that the repeal was a significant moment in India's history.

G — Germany gets a new leader in Olaf Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his predecessor Angela Merkel exchange a fist bump after Merkel handed over the office to Scholz and leaves the Chancellery in Berlin. AFP

Auf Wiedersehn Angela Merkel and Guten Tag Olaf Scholz!

After 16 years, Germany got a new chancellor in the form of Olaf Scholz. Scholz, a soft-spoken 63-year-old, steered the Social Democrats to election victory in late September. Merkel was consistently a moderating and stabilising force in the European bloc and she will be remembered differently by people around the world.

Some liberal-leaning Americans saw her as the de-facto leader of the Western free world during the United States' own turn to conservatism under Donald Trump — a role Merkel never wanted. In France, many saw her unpretentious leadership style as a refreshing contrast to their own presidents.

H — Harry-Meghan explosive interview 

File image of a family gathering around the television in Liverpool to watch Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's explosive tell-all interview on CBS with Oprah Winfrey. AFP

For Britain's Duke and Duchess of Sussex, 2021 was a bumpy year. Harry and Meghan settled into life in the United States and welcomed their baby girl, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor.

After stepping back from their roles as senior royals, the two gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey in March that caused jaws to drop. They delivered sordid details about all the dramas that had been playing out behind palace doors. They spoke of the senior royal who had questioned the colour of their baby’s skin. They directly addressed Meghan’s feud with Kate, revealing it was the future Queen who’d made her cry. They spoke of being trapped, of being prisoners in their own lives, without even access to their passports.

It was all too much to take in, but it also left us with the thought that the royals, as different they are, are very similar to us.

I — Indian Olympians win seven medals 

Gold medallist Neeraj Chopra, of India, poses during the medal ceremony. AP

Amid the various lows that the country experienced, the Olympics gave us a reason to smile and to be proud! The nation capped off its best-ever performance in the Games with a haul of seven medals, including a gold. Neeraj Chopra's gold in the javelin event was the cherry on the top as it also was the nation's first in a track and field event since it gained independence from Britain.

And Neeraj wasn't our only reason to smile; earlier, our women Mirabai Chanu, PV Sindhu and Lovlina Borgohain too won medals in their respective fields, giving women power a whole new meaning.

Please read: Year in Review 2021: Top 10 sporting moments from the year gone by

The Games also sparked a love affair with hockey again as the men won the bronze medal and the women came a creditable fourth after finishing at the bottom in Rio in 2016.

J  — Jack Dorsey quits Twitter

Technology was big news in 2021 and Twitter's Jack Dorsey too left a mark on this year. At the end of November, Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter Inc, announced that he was leaving the social media platform.

He announced that chief technology officer Parag Agrawal would take over his position. “I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,” Dorsey said in the statement. “My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It’s his time to lead.”

K — Kashi Vishwanath Corridor inaugurated

Prime Minister Narendra Modi carries holy water of Ganga to offer prayers as he arrives to inaugurate Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor, in Varanasi. AFP

The year witnessed the grand inauguration of the revamped Kashi Vishwanath temple complex and corridor that set the tone of the ensuing political battle ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections.

The Rs 800-crore project was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his parliamentary constituency in March 2019, with the aim of restoring the “lost glory” of the spiritual centre.

Please read: Off-centre | PM Modi’s restoration of Kashi Vishwanath shrine a great civilisational leap for India

The redevelopment of the Kashi Vishwanath complex is in line with the prime minister’s ambitious project to build temples around the country. So far he has laid the foundation stone for the Ram temple in Ayodhya, and pushed beautification and redevelopment projects at the Somnath complex and the Kedarnath Dham.

He has repeatedly described these as nation-building projects, the resurrection and celebration of its ancient glory. He said, during the inauguration, “people will see how inspirations of the ancient are giving direction to the future”.

L — Lakhimpur Kheri violence

A vehicle set ablaze after violence broke out following protesting farmers were allegedly run over by a vehicle in the convoy of a Union minister in Lakhimpur Kheri.PTI

Lakhimpur Kheri, a small city in Uttar Pradesh, made big headlines in 2021 when three cars rammed into a crowd of protesting farmers, killing eight people. The violence erupted after a car belonging to Ashish Mishra, son of Minister of State (MoS) for Home Ajay Mishra, allegedly ran over the farmers, who were protesting against the Centre's three farm laws ahead of an event in Tikunia.

The incident and the violence in its aftermath left eight people dead: four farmers, two BJP workers, a driver of one of the vehicles, and a journalist.

The incident quickly turned political, which also led to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra being detained.

The investigating team later revealed that the incident was a 'pre-planned conspiracy' and was a 'deliberate act and not of negligence or callousness'.

M — Mamata Banerjee defeats BJP in Bengal

File image of Trinamool Congress party leader Mamata Banerjee waving to supporters gathered outside her home to celebrate the party's results in the West Bengal Assembly election, in Kolkata. AFP

'DIDI DID IT', 'Khela Over: Mamata is Didi Beyond Bengal' and 'Mamata for 2024'.

These were just some of the headlines and trending searches after Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress defeated the BJP overwhelmingly in the Bengal Assembly elections.

She emerged as the so-called 'giant killer' after her party secured 213 of the 292 seats despite the BJP throwing everything it had at her. Sitting on a wheelchair, she campaigned across the state, took on a combative Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and came out victorious. We have got to say, 2021 couldn't have been any better for Didi.

N — Nagaland killings

Tears flow down the cheek of a Konyak Naga girl as she prays inside a church in Oting village, in Nagaland. The state is is in mourning after more than a dozen people were killed by soldiers. AP

The evening of 4 December was like any other. A group of eight men were travelling in an open Jeep in Mon district of Nagaland. An oncoming vehicle belonging to the military suddenly opened fire on the occupants of the Jeep. What followed next was a bloody tragedy.

Fourteen Nagaland civilians and one soldier were killed in the botched operation and its aftermath. The tragedy has led to a lot of bad blood between the residents of Nagaland and the Indian Army.

The killings renewed conversations around  AFSPA in the state, with many calling for the draconian law's withdrawal.

ALSO SEE: Those blaming AFSPA for the Nagaland killings are ill-informed. Here’s why

O — Omicron wreaks havoc

Shoppers wearing face masks to guard against COVID-19 queue outside a store on Oxford Street in London. AP

Just when the world seemed to return to 'normal' and people were getting used to living sympatico with coronavirus, did Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant, rear its ugly head.

The new variant of coronavirus was first detected in South Africa and it quickly was deemed as a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organization owing to it having a high number of mutations — about 30 — in the coronavirus' spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads to people.

It quickly spread across the world, causing a massive spike in cases and it arrived at India's doors on 2 December with two people from Karnataka having tested positive for the new coronavirus variant.

The new variant has spread more gloom around the globe ahead of New Year's Eve, with governments moving at different speeds to contain the scourge, with some reimposing restrictions immediately and others hesitating to spoil the party again.

P — Punjab Congress crisis

File image of Charanjit Singh Channi and Navjot Singh Sidhu. News18

Getting into a complete mess is something which the Congress seems to have developed into fine art and this was all too apparent with the way they handled the situation in Punjab.

First, they lost their powerhouse Amarinder Singh due to the friction and the elevation of Navjot Singh Sidhu to Punjab Congress chief. The Grand Old Party then installed Charanjit Singh Channi as the chief minister, a move many called a masterstroke as the latter belonged to the Dalit community.

Many experts believed that things would be smooth sailing after Channi's elevation, but that wasn't the case as Sidhu quickly announced his resignation. After much cajoling and deliberations, the former cricketer agreed to stay on as Punjab Congress chief and work alongside Charanjit Singh Channi.

But, it seems that what appeared to be a sure win for the Congress in 2022 seems unlikely with the Captain now tying up with the BJP.

Q — Quad leaders meet in Washington, DC

President Joe Biden with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga, at the White House. Image Courtesy: @narendramodi/Twitter

It's not very often that diplomatic groupings garner as much attention as the QUAD meeting did in September. The leaders of the Quad -- India, Australia, Japan and the United States -- met at the White House in September just a month after the US withdrew from Afghanistan and saw the country fall back into the hands of the Taliban.

The meet assumed even more significance as it was being seen as a counter to China, who has been flexing its muscles in the Indo-Pacific region.

Please read: Peace in Indo-Pacific and sharing democratic values: How Quad leaders took subtle digs at China

Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that participation in Quad would establish peace and prosperity in the world. He outlined how the Quad initiative would help Indo-Pacific nations and would be a "force for global good".

R — Ratan Tata's company buy Air India

Indian industrialist Ratan Tata. AFP

"Welcome back, Air India," tweeted Tata Group's chairman emeritus Ratan Tata on 8 October after the conglomerate won the bid to acquire the cash-strapped Air India.

With a Rs 18,000-crore bid, the Tatas were back in the Air India cockpit 68 years after the airline they founded in 1932 was nationalised. The deal marked the end of years of struggle to privatise the heavily indebted state carrier. This was also the first privatisation in India in almost two decades.

S — Second COVID-19 wave devastates India

Multiple funeral pyres of those who died of COVID-19 burn at a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for the mass cremation of coronavirus victims, in New Delhi. AP

In late April and early May, India became the epicentre of the global coronavirus pandemic. In 27 days, the daily new cases rose from one lakh to four lakh in the country and the peak was at 4,14,188 new cases on 6 May.

The second wave overwhelmed the healthcare system, leaving hospitals struggling to cope and critical drugs and oxygen in short supply. The second wave was so severely brutal that in many places, especially in north India, patients admitted to hospitals were dying due to a lack of oxygen.

Images and reports flooded televisions, social media and newspapers of people gasping for oxygen and crematoriums overflowing with dead bodies. If this wasn't heartbreaking, India's vaccination drive faltered and people were left waiting for hours in queues only to be turned away for shortage of vaccines.

Rama Baru, who studies India health policy at Jawaharlal Nehru University, speaking to VOX had said of the second wave: "Now a country that aspires to be a global leader is seeing people die because they can’t get oxygen. I feel quite shocked. We’ve never had a time in our history when we lost our humanness.”

T — Taliban take over of Afghanistan

Taliban fighters stand on an armoured vehicle parade along a road to celebrate after the US pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan, in Kandahar. AFP

After 20 years of war, it was in 2021 that the Taliban swept to victory in Afghanistan. The group completed their shockingly rapid advance across the country by capturing Kabul on 15 August. It came after foreign forces withdrew from Afghanistan following a deal between the United States and the Taliban, two decades after US forces removed the militants from power in 2001.

What has followed since then has been frightening: they formed an “inclusive, Islamic government”, which doesn't have a single woman member. They have forced segregation at schools and colleges, forced women to stay at home, and most recently announced that women can't undertake solo distant trips.

Journalists have been viciously assaulted for portraying the ground realities and people in Afghanistan are simply living in fear. What does the Taliban plan to do next? We have no answer for that, but we can say that a savage future awaits this land.

U — Uttarakhand floods

 Members of the NDRF evacuate people from a flooded area in Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand. Image Courtesy: NDRF/Twitter

Disaster struck Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on 7 February 2021 in the form of an avalanche and deluge, after a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off. The disaster caused untold destruction and left over 200 killed or missing.

What triggered the rock and hanging glacier to fall in Uttarakhand remains an open question.

Tragedy struck again when floods hit the hill state, killing nearly 70 people and inundating several key cities.

Many experts have pointed out that unplanned construction activities and mining in flood-prone areas and ecologically sensitive zones have exacerbated the situation.

V — Vaccines

File image shows ground staff and media gather during the unveiling of a SpiceJet Boeing 737 design celebrating India's administering its billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose . AFP

In the history of medicine, the fastest developed vaccine to date was for mumps which was developed in four years. However, scientists of the world showed remarkable efficiency in developing a vaccine for COVID-19 within a year.

As of 28 December, more than nine billion doses have been administered across 184 countries — roughly 41.9 million doses a day.

India on 21 October achieved the major milestone of administering over 100 crore COVID-19 vaccines.

Please read: From glitches to glory: How India transformed its COVID-19 vaccination drive

While initally, there were only two vaccines which were authorised — Pfizer and Modern — today the world has a range of options to choose from: Covishield from Serum Institute, Covaxin from Bharat Biotech, Sputnik from Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Russia, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, Serum Institute of India's Covovax, Biological E's jab Corbevax, anti-Covid pill Molnupiravir and Zydus Cadila's ZyCoV-D.

W — Wildfires across the world

A home burns as flames from the Dixie fire tear through the Indian Falls neighbourhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California. AFP

The year 2021 proved another disastrous fire year for the world. Several regions around the world experienced devastating wildfire seasons.

In the United States alone, more than 7.6 million acres burned, about 2.6 million fewer acres than 2020. California's Dixie fire was the largest wildfire of 2021, burning more than 960,000 acres before being contained.

Greece too experienced multiple wildfires in August, reducing 125,000 hectares of forest and arable land into nothing but ash. It also forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people from the island.

According to scientists, global wildfires in 2021 caused an estimated total of 1760 megatonnes of carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of 6450 megatonnes of CO2.

X — Xi Jinping 

A picture of Chinese president Xi Jinping is seen on a large screen during a cultural performance as part of the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China, at the Bird's nest national stadium in Beijing. AFP

China's Xi Jinping will close 2021 in an unassailable position; he has consolidated his authority over China’s Communist Party and honed a personality cult more pervasive than that of any leader since Mao Zedong.

At its annual meeting in November, the Communist Party’s central committee passed its first 'historical resolution' in 40 years, declaring that Xi’s leadership was “the key to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

The party’s two most revered leaders, Mao and Deng Xiaoping, used similar resolutions to tighten their hold on power in 1945 and 1981, respectively.

Please see: Mao, Deng, and now Xi: Communist Party of China completes its holy trinity, history gets official stamp too

The CCP has effectively declared Xi as their equal, and having already abolished presidential term limits, the party has cleared a path for the 68-year-old to serve for life.

And it seems nothing fazes the man — not even the US-brokered AUKUS — a partnership between it, the UK, and Australia.

Y — Yediyurappa resigns as chief minister of Karnataka

File image of Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa addressing the media after submitting his resignation at Raj Bhavan, in Bengaluru. ANI

BS Yediyurappa captured headlines on 26 July when he announced his resignation as the chief minister of Karnataka after completing two years in office. The 78-year old BJP veteran, who battled criticism and public attacks from within his party and cabinet, had said he quit “voluntarily” and thanked the BJP.

However, it wasn't just his resignation, but the fact that this was the fourth CM that the party had changed in 2021. Yediyurappa's resignation was preceded by the BJP changing Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat with Tirath Singh Rawat on 10 March.

Prior to that, the BJP appointed Himanta Biswa Sarma as the chief minister of Assam, replacing Sarbananda Sonowal. BJP's Tirath Singh Rawat, who was put in charge on 10 March had the shortest tenure when he resigned on 2 July and passed on the baton to Pushkar Singh Dhami.

Z — Zojila Tunnel

Workers toil hard to complete the Zojila and Z-Morh tunnels on the Srinagar-Leh highway. AP

The Narendra Modi government has given a huge push to infrastructure projects in the country and the Zojila Tunnel being constructed in Jammu and Kashmir is proof of this. In September, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari inspected the west portal of the tunnel and announced that the government would complete this before Republic Day, 2024.

At 14.15 km, the Zojila tunnel will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel. Being constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 4,600 crore, this key infra project will provide all-year connectivity between Leh and Srinagar.

The tunnel, which is covered from the top, will provide a passage safe from avalanches in the winter months and also safer travel for defence and military vehicles, which are active in the border territory.

With inputs from agencies

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