Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Notwithstanding being an even year, 2020 will go down the memory lane as the most 'Odd' year for all and sundry (from Aam to Khaas Admi).

Odisha witnessed a plethora of new-normals- containment zones, lockdowns, shutdowns, quarantine, face mask, sanitiser and social distancing - and a whole lot of new experiences. Despite pandemic year, the State witnessed some fine Yorkers during the slog days of the year that took the bails off the politicians at the highest level.

Down Memory Lane

January 2020: The Honour: Odisha's pride rolled on at Janpath in national capital Delhi, when on the Republic Day parade, the tableau of famous Rukuna rath rolled out with all grandeur scripting a historic moment for the State.

The Dishonour:

A) Open criticism of twin city Police Commissioner Sudhanshu Sarangi by BJD spokesperson Lenin Mohanty over the proposal for all women special police officers unit in colleges and IT companies to keep a tab on the rising crime against women at such places. Lenin's charge: This will promote gender discrimination that stirred up a political cauldron for the ruling BJD. Opposition targeted  Naveen's 5T, BJD was compelled to disown the statement of its  official spokesperson.

B) Goons close to ruling party MLA Annat Narayan Jena rained punches on a Sikh resident, Guruvinder Singh, in the temple city that left him grievously bruised. The incident snowballed into a national rebuke for the ruling BJD, when the Akali Dal took serious objections and termed it as an attack on the Sikh community for voicing against Mangu Mutt demolition in Puri.

C) Under-construction roof in Bhubaneswar Airport caved in killing one. This become a full blown political slanging match between BJD-BJP

Political Show: Ruling BJD dabbled with caste politics and the State Cabinet passed a resolution demanding  caste based enumeration during the census 2021 data collection.


Show Stoppers: Odisha's premier SCB Medical College and Hospital (SCBMCH), successfully carried out the first ever cadaver kidney transplant  in the State. Odisha joined the select group of states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi-NCR, Punjab and Puducherry.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah made his first visit to the State after 2019 elections. At a rally in Cuttack, Shah delivered a punch line "Only a jump is needed for BJP to occupy the power-seat in Odisha".

The Blips: A)The Economic Survey 2020 tabled in the Parliament revealed a shocker. Shedding light on inflation, it said Odisha had the costliest 'Thaali' (plate) of vegetable and non-vegetable food in the entire eastern India.

B) Odisha Eco-Survey nailed the slowdown in State economy. The State logged lowest ever GSDP of 6 per cent in last 5-years.

C)Eco-Survey 2019-20 revealed quitting of farmers in a big way in State. It said the net sown area had declined but fallow land had risen in State.

D) Bedlam prevailed in the State Assembly for days during Budget session as Opposition protested 'Officer raj' in Odisha. State officers remained absent in Officer's gallery during the question hour.

The Tragedy: 1) A bus caught fire after coming into contact with sagging 11kV live wires in Ganjam that charred10 innocent passengers to death. Odisha government received a lot of flak as this had been the second such incident in last 4-years. Opprobrium heaped on power utilities and State Disaster Mitigation Authority (SDMA).

2) A 5-yr old child fell victim to city's traffic snarl that highlighted poor traffic management in Bhubaneswar, when new MVA imposed Rs 10,000 fine or 3yr jail for blocking Ambulances.

March 2020

The YES bank collapsed on March -5. RBI applied a freeze on withdrawing large deposits. Odisha erupted as Shree Jagannath Temple Authority had a FD account worth Rs 547 crore in YES Bank. State was on boil as Tirupati Temple Authorities sniffing the trouble had successfully withdrawn their deposits prior to the cap.

March 16: Odisha detected its first n-CoV case in Bhubaneswar. While PM Modi asked people to observe 'Janata Curfew' on March 22, Odisha government announced first lockdown in 5-districts and 8 towns on March 21.

Odisha detected third n-CoV case. After tracing contact history, State government officially termed P3 as a super spreader for not adhering to State government Covid-19 protocol. 53 contacts traced.

April 2020

COVID cases spiralled up to cross the 100 mark. The government extended lockdown and containment zones to new affected districts.

Double Whammy May 2020

On one hand rising n-CoV cases catapulted Odisha to fourth position in Active cases in the Country, while on the other it was racing up of Super Cyclone Amphan towards north Odisha coast. However, the climax spared the State as the very severe cyclone made landfall in West Bengal on May 17. But northern districts in the State did see strong gale, rain and destruction.

*Lockdown rendered 3lakh unemployed in Odisha, said CMIE.

*May 8 - SC cleared the way for the return of migrant labour force to Odisha. State government rolled out quarantine centres in all districts. Ganjam started reporting n-CoV cases.

June 2020

Nation eases lockdown restrictions. Odisha extended the lockdown as cases zoomed to 5k mark.

Centre sends SOS as Odisha moved into the top-15 fast rising n-CoV states. Ganjam moves up the chart to occupy number one hit district in Odisha.

The country's Apex court halted the juggernaut. The annual Rath Yatra stopped for the first time in the independent history of India. Emotions ran high. Angry outpouring spilled on the streets. Odisha government filed a fresh affidavit. Union government SG Tushar Mehta said in SC, "If Rath Yatra will not be allowed, then no rath yatra will ever happen for another 12 years."

SC gave the green signal with conditions. The State erupted with victory cries of  'Jay Jagannath'.

Odisha Unlock -1.0 announced on June 30.

July - October 2020

The rising COVID graph peaked in August and Septmber. State broke into the top -10 n-CoV hit states. July saw 500 n-CoV cases every day. Moreover, the casualty toll touched the 100-mark in July.  August saw total cases nearing to 15k mark. Ganjam district became the 35th hotspot in country.

City-based ILS released the genome sequencing of n-CoV in Odisha. Found two strains that have a faster transmission potential. n-CoV deaths crossed 1k mark in September. Bhubaneswar and Cuttack emerged the hot spots. Ganjam took backseat. Odisha government claimed success of Ganjam model in containing n-CoV.

November 2020

The  corona graph tapers down in State. Political activities started as Odisha witnessed to bye-polls - Balasore and Jagatsinghpur. First polls held under Covid-19. CM Naveen Patnaik addressed virtual rallies.

December 2020

A string of controversies hit the ruling BJD. The Naveen Patnaik government's avowed 5T was in flames. Parents of 5-year old Nayagarh girl Pari made a self-immolation bid before the Odisha Assembly as Nayagarh police made no headway even after 5-months of  the kidnap and murder.

In a span of 4 -days, 3 self-immolation bids took place before the State Assembly. All fingers pointed  at the district administration for 'shielding' the accused. The grouses range from police to procurement.

Odisha Government ordered HC-monitored SIT probe into Nayagarh minor murder. Nearly over a week after constitution,  Senior IPS officer Arun Bothra-led SIT cracked the case. SIT named 18-year old Saroj Sethy accused of kidnapping, rape and murder. But the debate on Sethy as real culprit rages on .