Was 2020 the worst year?

Flights Of Fantasy

[M Panging Pao]

Yet another new year dawns! The sun’s rays over Dong in Arunachal Pradesh ushered in another new year, 2021. With the dawn of the new year, the world bid farewell to 2020, which was maybe the worst year of our times.

Over the past year, the Chinese-origin Covid-19 pandemic affected the entire world, infecting more than 8.5 crore persons with more than 18.5 lakh fatalities. India has over one crore infections with 1.5 lakh fatalities. Arunachal has 16,711 cases till date with 56 fatalities. The Covid-19 pandemic is infecting thousands of persons daily; America and Europe are undergoing a second phase of lockdown.

The Covid-19 pandemic created panic in the world with prolonged lockdowns, rendering millions of people jobless, leading to massive recession in the economy. In India, about 27 million youths lost their jobs and almost 53 percent of businesses were adversely affected or closed. Supply chains were disrupted and a large number of farmers are also facing uncertainty. The nationwide lockdown led to closure of industries, hotels, shops, travel and offices, which resulted in millions of job losses, leading to the exodus of millions of migrants back to their home states. The interstate travel ban led to disruptions in supply chains, leading to shortage in goods and products.

The pandemic led to the closure of schools/colleges for months with students suffering endlessly. Marriages/family functions were truncated or postponed. Most sporting events were cancelled and the few remaining were held without spectators. Even the Summer Olympics was postponed. Due to lockdowns and fear of Covid-19, many ailing patients of other diseases suffered or expired. Covid-19 led to such fear and panic that may persons suffered from psychological problems. Former prevalent forms of greetings like handshake, hugs and kisses were discarded. Lifestyles and ways of living of millions of persons were turned upside down.

Other bad events of 2020 include cyclones Amphan and Nisarga, floods ravaging Assam and Arunachal, violent Sino-India skirmishes in eastern Ladakh and Sikkim, year-ending farmers protests, etc.

There were bad years earlier also. In 1919, the Spanish flu infected 50 crores, killing 5 crore people. World War I (1914-1919) killed millions. Likewise, World War II (1939-1945) killed, maimed and disrupted millions. In 1950, a major earthquake hit eastern India and caused over 5,000 fatalities, disrupting and dislodging rivers, mountains and villages. The 1962 Sino-India conflict resulted in over 6,000 soldiers killed, thousands injured or taken as prisoners of war.

However, there is hope in the air. Covid-19 vaccine has just been cleared for use in India. Vaccination for lakhs of Indians, including Arunachal, is planned to begin in the next few days and weeks. Human enterprise cannot be defeated by a virus. Year 2021 brings hope to humankind to overcome fear and start living normal lives.

To paraphrase Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but Arunachal has promises to keep, and miles to go before Arunachal sleeps, and miles to go before Arunachal sleeps.” (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)