Two of the world's largest-ever democratic elections with a turnout of nearly 2 billion people, dozens of other assembly or state elections - some simultaneous, while most within a few months of each other; giant leaps forward in our space programme, some of the biggest and most significant reforms since independence, strategic shifts in the defence and foreign policies, some landmark judgements by the Supreme Court, revamping the railways, building highways at never-before speeds, massive infrastructure work at various levels, the entire nation becoming one market, taking a lead in addressing issues relating to climate change, winning a world cup, and attempting to make Mahatma Gandhi's vision a reality - a lot has happened in India in the decade gone by.
Here are some of the most noteworthy events that have defined the 2010-2019 decade in India:
1) Narendra Modi And The General Elections Of 2014 And 2019: While the Congress led-UPA-2 was plagued with allegations of corruption and scams whilst also facing problems like severe policy paralysis, the BJP nominated Narendra Modi - the three-time Chief Minister of Gujarat whose state was a top performer - as its prime ministerial candidate. The BJP's election campaign titled "Abki bar, Modi sarkar" (This time, Modi's government) went on overdrive highlighting how Narendra Modi was a bold and effective administrator who has delivered consistently in Gujarat. He promised the people of India "achhe din" or better days. He also stressed on his slogan "sabka saath, sabka vikas" (For everyone, and development for all). The campaign was hugely successful. Narendra Modi became a household name across India, such that many termed it as a "Modi wave" across the nation. The mandate was overwhelmingly in his favour, and Mr Modi delivered the BJP's best ever result till then, giving it comfortably more than the 272 seats it needed to get a full majority. This became the first parliamentary majority by a single party since 1984. With its allies, the BJP in 2014 had over 300 of the 543 parliamentary seats. The stunning numbers provide incontrovertible evidence of the "Modi wave" which was much talked about. Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India.
Five years went by and the Modi government delivered on several promises. While there were some complaints, the BJP-led NDA government got more things right than it did wrong. Prime Minister Modi led from the front and delivered on several counts. His party - the BJP - also maintained the pressure on the opposition Congress, keeping them mostly on the back-foot. As the 2019 general election approached, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP seemed to have a clear advantage. The question most people asked was "Modi vs who?"
The 2019 election result was declared in May, and the "Modi wave" became a "tsunami", or as some called it "TsuNaMo". The BJP got more than 300 seats by itself, and crossed the 350-mark with its allies in the NDA. The Rahul Gandhi-led Congress barely crossed 50. It has been little over six months since the second term of the Modi government began and it has already gone into top gear. However, some of its recent decisions have led to protests across the country. How things play out over the next four-and-a-half years is anybody's guess, but it is a crucial period for India - a period that will decide if India, the youngest country in the world in terms of average age of the population, will end up being a demographic dividend or a demographic disaster. A lot rides on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his decisions.
2) India's Space Missions: Mars, Moon, And More: In September 2014 ISRO made history when India became the first country in the world to reach Mars in its maiden attempt. Not only was it a remarkable achievement by India's scientists, it was so cost-effective that the whole world was awestruck by it. The Mars Orbiter Mission was achieved on a budget of $74 million, nearly a tenth of the amount the US space agency NASA spent on sending the Maven spacecraft to Mars. "We have gone beyond the boundaries of imagination," PM Modi said, applauding the extraordinary achievement.
With Mangalyaan in martian orbit, India now set its eyes on another world record a few years later - of launching over a hundred satellites on board a single rocket. In February 2017, the PSLV-C37 carrying 104 satellites was launched from the First Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota at 09:28 IST. In about 18 minutes, all 104 satellites were released into space, each travelling at the speed of over 27,000 km per hour - 40 times the speed of an average passenger airline. The mission was a big success and received a lot of attention globally.
All eyes we now set on India's second mission to the Moon. Named after its predecessor, the Chandrayaan-2 was launched in July 2019. Unlike Chandrayaan-1, which only had an orbiter, this time ISRO sent a lander named 'Vikram' and a rover named 'Pragyan'. It would be the first time India's space agency was attempting a soft-landing on the Moon. Things however, did not go quite as planned by the scientists and the mission was only a partial success. While the orbiter performs flawlessly from its lunar orbit, the lander and the rover were lost as the craft made a hard-landing on the Moon. Determined to land on the Moon, ISRO has hinted a another mission to the Moon in the near future.
ISRO has also announced its plans for future mission, including India's first indigenous manned mission to space in 2022. The mission has been named 'Gaganyaan'. India's space plans also includes a second missions to Mars, a mission to Venus and a mission to the study the Sun from as close as possible. There are also reports claiming that ISRO is considering a mission to Jupiter, however there is no confirmation in this regard.
3) GST - India's Biggest Reform Since Independence: On July 1, 2017, at the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world slept, India's parliament launched the historic Goods and Services Tax or GST, unifying India as "one nation, one tax, one market", ending dozens of state taxes and levies and bringing goods and services with a common tax slab across the nation. The step not only helps reduce paperwork and helps logistics, but also curbs corruption and makes it easier for both domestic and foreign businesses. By implementing the GST, India unified its over two-trillion-dollar economy and more than 1.3 billion people into a common market. Goods and Services of a common type now cost the same in all states and union territories.
The biggest game changer in GST is input tax credit, where credits of input taxes paid at each stage of production or service delivery can be availed in the succeeding stages of value addition. This means that the end consumer only bears the GST charged by the last point in supply chain, with set-off benefits at all the earlier stages.
The GST is seen as a measure that will reap benefits in the long run.
4) Demonetisation Or As Many Called It, 'Notes Ban': On November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation at 8 pm. The announcement made the entire nation stop what they were doing and look at the nearest available television set. The 500 and 1,000-rupee currency notes were declared illegal tender, or in simpler words scrapped - of no value. The people were assured that their money was safe and all they needed to do was to deposit whatever cash they had in their bank accounts by December 30 the same year. Till that date people could only withdraw Rs 24,000 per week, including a maximum of Rs 2,500 from ATMs per day. The aim was to "end black money". Black money is money that is either unaccounted, untaxed, or illegal. By declaring and depositing whatever cash people had with them, the money would end up being accounted for and taxed, thereby bringing a sudden end to the shadow economy.
The government also announced that anyone who has undeclared wealth in form of cash can pay the legit tax on it.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many in his government are convinced that demonetisation was a big success, critics and the opposition parties firmly believe otherwise. Leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and several other senior politicians, some of whom were even formerly associated with the BJP, have been very critical of the government's notes ban move. However, if elections are an indicator of whose argument the people believe, the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly election, which were held shortly after the demonetisation move, gave a massive mandate favouring PM Modi's party, the BJP.
5) Nirbhaya Gang-Raped, India Outraged: On December 16 2012, a physiotherapy student and her friend climbed onto a bus in south Delhi, assured by the driver that they would be dropped off at their destination. The woman was gang-raped by six men for hours, brutalised with an iron rod and her intestines were pulled out. She died in a Singapore hospital 13 days later, leaving millions in shock. Amid outrage and street protests not just in India but also in other parts of the world, four of the rapists were sentenced to death by a trial court in 2013. A year later, the high court confirmed it. But Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh moved the Supreme Court for mercy. Ram Singh, the bus driver, was found hanging in his cell in Tihar jail in March 2013, months before the rapists were convicted. The sixth convict was just short of 18 when he was arrested. He walked out of a correction home in December 2015 after spending three years - the maximum punishment for minors - sparking public outrage and an overhaul of the juvenile law.
The four other convicts named above will hang, the Supreme Court has said, when though, is not known yet. Nirbhaya's parents still wait as the decade draws to a close.
6) India's World Cup Win: India became the first home nation to win a World Cup when they defeated Sri Lanka in the final at the iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. It was an emotional journey for India as it was Sachin Tendulkar's final appearance in cricket's biggest extravaganza. Sri Lanka won the toss and Mahela Jayawardene's unbeaten 103 took the islanders to 274/6 in 50 overs. India were in trouble when they lost both Sachin and Sehwag at 31/2. But it was for the 109-run stand between captain MS Dhoni (91 not out) and Gautam Gambhir (97) that took India to the cusp of victory before MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh finished it off.
With victory at an arms distance, Yuvraj Singh at the other end, and eleven balls to spare MS Dhoni went for the kill - a huge six into the dark Mumbai sky, as Wankhede went from sudden silence to a roar in a nanosecond. India celebrated through the night, people and flags everywhere, with random hugs and tears of joy, cricket had united the nation once more. As for MS Dhoni, of all the things the great leader will be remembered for, that six is definitely the most lasting memory for all cricket lovers who have followed and idolised him over the years. That shot has made him immortal.
7) Surgical Strikes, Balakot, Doklam - Strategic Shift In India's Defence Policy: There has been a clear and visible shift in India's national security and defence policy, especially when it comes to aggression from neighbouring nations. The government now says it has a solid and effective zero-tolerance policy with regard to terrorism and countries which use terror as a state policy. Some recent examples of incidents that highlight the shift in India's defence policy are:
Surgical Strikes Across The LoC: In September 2016, India conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The strikes were carried out based on intelligence inputs of terrorists waiting in terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, waiting to cross over. It was also in retaliation to the 2016 terror attack carried out by Pakistani terrorists on a military camp in Jammu and Kashmir's Uri. Pakistani terrorists attacked the army base in Uri in one of the deadliest attacks on the military. 19 soldiers were killed. The surgical strikes conducted by India inflicted "significant casualties" at these terror launch pads, killing dozens of terrorists.
Balakot Airstrikes: Balakot airstrike was conducted by India in the early morning hours of February 26, 2019, when the Indian Air Force had struck the Jaish-e-Mohammed's Balakot training camp deep inside Pakistani territory, using Mirage 2000 fighters armed with SPICE 2000 satellite-guided bombs. The Indian fighter jets had crossed the Line of Control before dawn and carried out "non-military, pre-emptive air strikes" based on specific intelligence inputs. Just two week earlier, a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber targetted an military convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, killing over 40 soldiers.
The Doklam Stand-off: Between June and August 2017, India and China had a 73-day stand-off at Doklam near Sikkim border. In June that year, Chinese soldiers who began constructing a new road illegally in the disputed tri-junction area between Bhutan, Sikkim and China were stopped by Indian troops. China had claimed that it was constructing the road within its territory and had demanding the immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from the disputed Doklam plateau. Bhutan says Doklam belongs to it, and China has entered the area illegally. Later, in August, both sides agreed to withdraw their soldiers from the face-off site at Doklam.
8) Landmark Judgements By The Supreme Court: The country's top court has delivered some key judgements in the last ten years, especially in the second half of the decade. Here are some of them:
Sabarimala Verdict: Women of all ages must be allowed in Kerala's renowned Sabarimala temple, the Supreme Court ordered in September 2018, ending a ban that prevented women and girls between 10 and 50 years from entering the shrine that draws millions of pilgrims every year. "Restrictions can't be treated as essential religious practice," the top court said in a majority four-one judgement, calling the custom "almost like untouchability". The only woman on the five-judge constitution bench, Justice Indu Malhotra, dissented, saying the court should not interfere in religious practices. For decades, women of menstrual age were restricted from entering the temple as its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate. The hilltop temple remains open only for 127 days in a year and can be accessed through a forest. The review peition was filed, and the Supreme Court in 2019 agreed to a hearing in which it said that a larger 7-judge bench will look into the matter. The Supreme Court also said that the larger bench should frame parameters to deal with alleged discrimination against Muslim and Parsi women -- entry of Muslim women into mosques and ''dargah'' as also Parsi women, married to non-Parsi men, being barred from the holy fire place of an Agyari.
Triple Talaq Verdict: In August 2017, the country's top court banned the controversial Islamic practice that allows men to leave their wives immediately by stating "talaq" (divorce) three times, calling the practice "unconstitutional". The verdict vindicated the stand of the government, which had said triple talaq violates fundamental rights of women. Several Muslim women who have been divorced because of it, including on Skype and on WhatsApp, had appealed to the top court to end the practice. The verdict was delivered by a panel of five judges from different major faiths - Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.
Verdict on Section 377: Consensual Homosexual Sex Between Adults: Homosexuality is not a crime in India anymore and it is not a mental disorder, five Supreme Court judges declared in September 2018 in a spectacular leap for gay rights in the country and a rainbow moment in its history. The Supreme Court overruled its own 2013 decision and partially struck down Section 377, a controversial British-era law that banned consensual gay sex. The ban is irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary, the judges said. "Take me as I am," said the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, toasting gay pride. "We have to bid adieu to prejudices and empower all citizens," said then Chief Justice Misra, reading out what he said was a consensus judgment. The judges also said: "Any discrimination on the basis of sexuality amounts to a violation of fundamental rights". The verdict was cheered by millions across the country, far beyond the gay community, which has fought for decades for the right to be treated equally.
9) Ayodhya, Disputed No More: In what is believed to be one of the longest court cases globally, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in November 2019. The disputed land in Ayodhya belongs entirely to the deity Ram Lalla or infant Lord Ram, the Supreme Court said in a landmark verdict that paves the way for a temple at the site claimed by both Hindus and Muslims for decades. A five-judge constitution bench also ruled that a "prominent site" in the holy town in Uttar Pradesh will be allotted for a new mosque. The Ayodhya verdict came after a century-old legal wrangle over the land where the 16th century Babri mosque stood before it was razed in 1992 by Hindu activists who believe it is the birthplace of Lord Ram. In the riots that followed, more than 2,000 people were killed. In their verdict, the judges referred to a report by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), which they said confirmed that a structure existed underneath the mosque but did not specify whether it was a temple. Earlier, an Allahabad High Court verdict prescribing a three-way division of the disputed land in September 2010 failed to satisfy the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla, the parties involved in the dispute. All three moved the Supreme Court. The dispute has now been settled by the Supreme Court, and the principal parties involved have accepted the top court's verdict. "It is time for healing. It is big relief that we did our duty entrusted on us," one of the judges told NDTV on the day of the verdict.
10) Jammu and Kashmir Fully Integrated, Article 370 Revoked: The "temporary" special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution of India was removed by a presidential order that came into force "at once", Home Minister Amit Shah said in parliament on August 5. The announcement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting of his cabinet at his house the same morning. Jammu and Kashmir was also "reorganised," with the state's bifurcation into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh - which came into being on October 31, 2019. The "temporary" Article 370 gave Jammu and Kashmir its own constitution and decision-making rights for all matters barring defence, communications and foreign affairs. Article 370 made it necessary for the centre to get the state legislature's approval for introducing any policies or constitutional powers to the state. With the removal of Article 370, the government says it will be able to develop Jammu and Kashmir at a much faster pace, ensure that the rights enjoyed by the rest of the country are extended to the residents of the two union territories. The government says it will also be able to tackle the Pakistan-backed terrorism in the two union territories. The Home Minister has assured that when the time is right, Jammu and Kashmir will be made a state again, however, Ladakh will remain a union territory.