For most of the 125 crore Indians, 2016 can probably be summarized by one word: demonetization. In one swift stroke, Narendra Modi took on the corrupt, black money, terror funding, and fake currency by withdrawing 500 and 1000 Rs notes in an operation that took everyone, including his own cabinet by surprise. ATMs ran dry, and for almost 2 months, citizens lined up outside banks and ATMs, to deposit old notes and try and get hands on the precious new currency.
It's a huge boost to digital payments, and will bring lakhs of crores into the formal banking system. It will increase tax compliance, bring down interest rates, and give the country a far truer picture of the economy, allowing the government to spend more on social security and infrastructure, while giving sops to the honest tax payers.
Yes, it created a lot of disruption, and will impact the economy for a little while, but when you have cancer, chemo is necessary, and it hurts! And in his new year eve speech, the PM rolled out a slew of measures to provide much needed balm to the poor, the farmers, the senior citizens, and to women. We do hope that the budget continues to bring cheer to the honest and the hard working, while further tightening the screws on the corrupt.
But before demonetization took over the country, Narendra Modi delivered another reason to cheer and feel proud to be Indian. In response to the ghastly Uri attack, the Indian Army delivered a stunning counter blow to terror sponsorship and support by Pakistan, in a surgical strike deep inside Pakistani territory, a move with known precedent. Calling Pakistan's nuclear bluff, the government and the army made it clear that Gandhiji's mantra of offering the other cheek would no longer be the operating philosophy, and the country would strike back and strike back hard. Thankfully, while the world grappled with terror attacks, especially in Europe, India remained relatively peaceful.
It was a good year for sports. Virat and Dhoni let India to glory on the field of cricket, while new stars were born - from PV Sindhu's badminton exploits to Sakshi and Dipa Karmakar's Olympic medals in wrestling and gymnastics, Indians have a lot to cheer about! Football is also picking up very well in the country, with the ISL providing excellent exposure and opportunities to some very talent youngsters. Hockey is on a good rebound, and both the men's and women's teams have had great success. As with everything else, it's the confidence and spirit that matters, and over the last couple of years, Indians have discovered it in plenty!
Thankfully, dirty politics, while still very much in play, is proving to be ineffective in swaying the voters. From the intolerance award wapasi tamasha, to the JNU student agitations, from stone pelting in Kashmir to Dalit atrocities and cow slaughter controversies, and even to aspersions being cast on the Indian Armed Forces, a lot of attempts have been made to destroy the fabric of the country. The media has been used to spread falsities and mislead the people. Social media has seen better days. However, if recent polls are anything to go by, the Indian voter has woken up and while caste and religion will never completely die, parties and leaders that focus on aspirations, development and growth are being consistently rewarded at the hustings. And that can only mean good news.
Meanwhile, the Smart City initiative is taking off in earnest. Along with Swacchh Bharat, Make in India, Skill India and Digital India campaigns of the government, cities are focusing on better lives through technology and sustainable development. Public transport, garbage management, solar/green power, pedestrianization, digital citizen engagement - a multi-pronged strategy is in place to improve livability and transparency in our cities, and with Indian jugaad, government commitment and the hard work of our officers, good days are ahead!
2017 brings high hopes - we should have an interesting budget, Trump will make life interesting, and all the seeds of the initiatives sown in the last 30 months should start sprouting results! It's gonna be a great ride!