What’s up 2020 ? - A year of never ending Mayhem

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On December 31, 2019, when the clock struck twelve, who knew those cheers of ‘Happy New Year’ galores, wouldn’t exactly fit right for 2020? Since the beginning of 2020, or even before the dawn of the year, bad omen has left the world with some dented memories, almost making many wonder if 2020 is cursed. Here is a recap of the most disastrously etched incidents that shook the world this year, taking place back to back, leaving no signs of gasps in between.

Natural disasters or a vengeful karma?

A couple of days ago, global reports showed melting permafrost caused a fuel tank to leak at least 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil into Russia’s Arctic Circle, leading to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declaring a state of emergency in the country. The leaking diesel oil had extended as far as 7 miles from the accident site and turned long stretches of the Ambarnaya bright red. 

In less than a month, India has been hit by two tropical cyclones, Nisarga and Amphan. While the country already battles the deadly Coronavirus pandemic, severing the strain on the healthcare system and personnel, Amphan on May 16, 2020, battered states like West Bengal and Odisha. 

According to an assessment report of an Inter-Ministerial Central Team, damages worth Rs 1,02,442 crore occurred due to Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal, while 28.56 lakh houses were damaged in the state, making the opposition parties there demand Centre to declare the cyclone as a national disaster. 

Nisarga, a severe cyclonic storm made landfall near Alibag, hitting along Maharashtra’s coastal district of Raigad on June 3, which led to at least 500,000 homes damaged in the district. At least 5000 hectares in Palghar, and 8000 hectares of agricultural cropland were affected in the surrounding districts of Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Raigad and Nashik among others. 

With six casualties and 16 injured across districts, damage of property was tremendous with more than 200,000 trees and 15,000 electricity poles that collapsed across the state.

On January 1, 2020,  Australia’s capital recorded the worst pollution it had ever faced, with an air quality index 23 times higher than what’s considered “hazardous.” Images of burnt koalas and kangaroos, wrapped in blankets, while people risked their lives to save their native animals, were some of the horrific visuals that went viral from Australia’s deadly bushfires in 2020. 

The bushfires, whose timing and intensity were unprecedented, reportedly killed an estimated 1 billion native animals, with around 3,000 homes and a wilderness area the size of Greece were left destroyed, almost leaving koalas in a “vulnerable to extinct” state.

What started in late 2019, prompting the Australian government to declare a state of emergency, the devastating incident escalated quickly before the rains helped contain many of the worst fires in February 2020. While some argued that the bushfires happened because of drought and not climate change, Australia’s records of one of the driest summers in history, cannot go unnoticed. 

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On January 24, Turkey’s Elazığ province saw an earthquake of 6.8 magnitude, leading to 41 deaths and more than 1,600 others injured. According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD), 45 people had been rescued from under destroyed buildings, with concerns remaining over the possibility of many more future disasters in Turkey. Floods in Indonesia’s Jakarta, that were caused by heavy torrential rains, triggering mudslides and floods, is said to be the worst over the last decade and had taken 66 lives, in January 2020.

Riots, riots and more riots!

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Poet Amir Aziz’s famous verse ‘sab yaad rakha jaayega’ (everything will be remembered), held fort to India’s massive anti-CAA movement that started on February 23, 2020. The infamous riots broke out in Northeast Delhi between Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and pro-CAA protestors, in response to the passage of the Citizenship Bill by the Indian government, which paved the way for grant of citizenship to Hindu, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists and Christians who took refuge in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in or before December 2014. 

Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protests, led mostly by women who sat through the national capital’s biting cold, drew a lot of attention, especially before the Delhi Assembly election of February 2020, and became a symbol of women-led anti-CAA protests across the country. 

Protests that started off peacefully, took a communal turn on February 23, hours before the communal riots broke out in Northeast Delhi, when BJP leader Kapil Mishra gave an “ultimatum” to the police to remove anti-CAA protesters blocking roads in the area. 

The violent protest led to the death of over 53 people and more than 200 were left injured, over the course of the next 10 days. 

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Cut to the recent US race riots, post George Floyd’s death. Floyd, an African American man who died in police action in the state of Minnesota, sparked several riots across the USA.

With the ongoing pandemic and the rising positive cases and deaths in the US due to Covid-19, more than 10,000 people have been arrested so far for protesting against racism and police brutality, that managed to turn exponentially violent, making the world turning heads.

 It has not only managed to enter itself into the world’s major episodes of civil unrest, but has also given birth to copycat protests across the world in countries that are now reflecting upon racism in their own societies. 

Shift Focus: Corona

Just as the term ‘new norm’ has become the new norm, ‘Corona’, a term that was perhaps prominently read only on a few beer bottles, has now become a part and parcel of everybody’s lives. The strange illness, that is believed to have first broken in a Wuhan market, was declared as a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), on January 30, 2020. 

The virus that has now taught countries all over the world on how to upgrade its defence against the contagion, ramp up its healthcare system, shutdown borders, lead the quarantine life, social distancing, at the same time teaching the way of life with appreciation, gratitude and self sufficiency. The deadly yet once referred to as the ‘Novel’ Coronavirus, has now spread in over 215 countries,  killing at least over 4 lakh people globally and infecting nearly an average of 10,000 per month. 

2020: Lockdown or Unlock ?

As India enters the ‘unlock’ relaxation phase after its long saga of four relentless lockdown extensions, the country now has the sixth-highest number of confirmed cases in the world, 236,657, surpassing Italy’s tally and ranks 12th in fatalities, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

When the country announced its first lockdown on January 24, 2020, millions of Indian daily-wage migrant workers were left stranded without a job or certainty of their only source of income. With no option left, while some hitchhiked along the way, several walked miles together to make their way home. On one hand, reports of a bunch of workers who were run over by a train as they fell asleep on the tracks alarmed the country, almost 80 deaths on board the Shramik Special trains (for stranded migrant workers) were reported between May 9 and May 27, by the Railway Protection Force. 

The number of migrant deaths on the roads due to accidents crossed 134, most of which occurred in the third phase of the lockdown that began on May 4, 2020. UN experts have now urged the Indian government to promptly comply with the Supreme Court order, which recently awoke to the situation of the migrant labour and ordered the Indian government to  ensure that they can get on a train or a bus free of charge, and provide them with shelter, food and water until they reach their homes. 

The Attack of the Locusts

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While one thought that the pandemic could be the worst that could happen in 2020, the ‘Great Locust Invasion’ was not something that the world was prepared for. The locust attack in India started in May, 2020 and the swarms still continue to chew upon the agricultural fields across the country.

While India had foreseen this outbreak two weeks in advance and predicted the potential challenge of food security that India in the coming months, locusts attack could certainly overwhelm the available stocks, parallely threatening the rise in cases of farmer suicides in India. 

As per several reports, the locusts that took off from countries like Somalia, Kenya has till date destroyed more than 125,000 acres of farmland in India. It is expected that around 10 swarms with each containing more than 80 million locusts are currently attacking the farms and more might come in future from Pakistan, making India and Pakistan, the new breeding grounds for the creatures, this coming monsoon. 

Faces that were lost

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On January 26, NBA legend Kobe Bryant succumbed to a tragic helicopter crash near Los Angeles, California, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant. The death of the five-time NBA champion for the L.A. Lakers and double Olympic gold medalist, spread ripples of shock across the world. 

On April 29, 2020, India woke up to the news of Bollywood actor and Slumdog Millionaire star, Irrfan Khan’s death, who was 53, died after being admitted to the hospital with a colon infection. Wishes poured in for one of the finest actors, not just from Bollywood but across the world, unable to sink in to the tragic news. Another movie giant from the Kapoor family in Bollywood, Rishi Kapoor, who had leukemia, also passed away the very next day, on April 30. 

After reading through this list of neverending mayhem that 2020 has brought with it, will leave you asking if one could finally breathe a sigh of relief yet or not? Well, let’s hope for a tomorrow with lesser tragedies in the months to come in 2020 and a better world beyond. 

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