Updated: December 31, 2021 12:21:18 am
2021 began with a surge of hope as the vaccination programme against Covid-19 was rolled out across India. But a deadly second wave of Covid-19, powered by the Delta variant, was the brutal reminder that the country had let down its guard too early. Mumbai weathered this storm better than many other parts of the country, including Delhi, but continued to be buffeted by headwinds of other kinds.
A cyclone named Tauktae hit Mumbai on May 18 with wind speed of up to 117 kmph, the same day as India recorded the highest number of Covid-19 deaths. Two boats sank off the Mumbai coast, taking down 86 people, and triggering the biggest maritime rescue effort since the 1978 Air India Flight 855 crash.
It takes a lot to shake Mumbai Police but an assistant sub-inspector managed to do just that by plotting a real-life script that put Bollywood in the shade. The plot claimed the job of his IPS officer boss, who in turn knocked out a minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Then, the Narcotics Crime Bureau, which has been in mission mode in Mumbai, fired a shot across the bow of India’s biggest superstar by arresting his son. But in another Bollywood like twist, it was the NCB officer who suddenly found himself in the eye of a storm, unleashed by a selfie.
Through all this, Mumbaikars started learning to live with the pandemic. They got vaccinated. When the lockdown restrictions began easing up in September, they trickled back to offices and other workplaces, and showed their double vaccination certificates to board trains.
They swarmed back to their favourite hangouts. Azad Maidan was active again, with a massive public transport workers’ strike, the longest in recent memory.
The sudden arrival of Omicron has been a year end damper. As the city bids goodbye to 2021, the one wish on everyone’s mind? Not another lockdown please!
Since the start of the mass vaccination programme against Covid-19 on January 16, Mumbai has administered 1.78 crore vaccines, the highest among the 36 districts in Maharashtra. Mumbai was the first city in the state where 100 per cent of the eligible population were inoculated with one dose. Till December 29, 99 lakh of the eligible population have taken the first dose and 73 lakh have been fully vaccinated – recording 80 per cent full immunisation in Mumbai.
This year, 53 people died in fire outbreaks in hospitals of Maharashtra.
Most of the deceased were Covid-19 patients. The outbreaks started with a devastating fire at the Bhandara District Hospital on January 9, leading to the deaths of 10 infants. The worst incident was witnessed on November 6 when a fire broke out at the ICU of Ahmednagar Civil Hospital, which claimed the lives of 14 Covid-19 patients. Also, 27 people – mostly Covid-19 patients – died in fires in hospitals of Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The first such incident took place at Sunrise Hospital in Ghatkopar on March 26, leading to 11 deaths. The worst incident was witnessed on April 23, when a fire broke out at the ICU of Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar, killing 15 Covid-19 patients.
The iconic red and yellow buses of MSRTC were the king of Maharashtra’s roads, assuring low budget travelers a safe trip. The thousands of drivers and conductors on its payroll have been off the roads for the last two months, making it the longest strike by MSRTC workers. The workers are seeking the corporation’s absorption into the state government in the belief that it will ensure better pay and perks.
In the middle of a Bombay High Court hearing on July 5 on the medical bail plea of Stan Swamy, the 84-year-old Jesuit priest and Jharkhand-based tribal rights activist passed away. It was over nine months since he was arrested by the NIA in the Elgaar Parishad case, brought to Mumbai from Ranchi and lodged in Taloja Central Jail since the agency did not seek his custody. Over a month before his death, Swamy had told HC that his health had seen a steady regression in jail and that he would possibly die very shortly. He was shifted to a private hospital but before his medical bail plea could be decided, he died.
During Cyclone Tauktae on May 17, 86 workers among the 274 people on board accommodation barge Papa 305 and tugboat MV Varaprada died in the Arabian Sea. Another 137 people on board accommodation barge Gal constructor escaped death as their barge drifted over 100 km from outer anchorage in Raigad and ran aground in Palghar. Hundreds of workers on board different ships were rescued by the Navy. The survivors termed it as a man-made disaster, blaming their employers for failing to take safety measures. The three vessels were carrying out work at the oil rigs run by ONGC Limited. While three executive directors of ONGC were suspended, two FIRs for culpable homicide were registered against the employers to whom ONGC had given contracts for carrying out the work.
Mumbai’s Byculla zoo welcomed two penguin chicks born in captivity. Oreo was born to Humboldt penguins Donald and Daisy, two of the seven Humboldt penguins (four male and three females). An unnamed chick was born to Flipper, the oldest female among the Humboldts, and Mr Molt, the youngest male penguin in the zoo, on August 19.
Rogue police officer Sachin Waze, who was reinstated by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government after being under suspension for over 16 years for his alleged role in the Khwaja Yunus custodial death case, landed the Mumbai Police in one of the biggest controversies that the force has faced. Accused of planting explosives in a Scorpio vehicle outside Antilla – the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani – on February 25, Waze is also alleged to have played a pivotal role in the murder of Thane resident Mansukh Hiran. This was one of the murkiest crime cases the city had witnessed in a long time.
Param Bir Singh was removed by the MVA government as the Mumbai Police commissioner for his handling of the Antilla bomb scare case. Singh hit back at the MVA by accusing then home minister Anil Deshmukh of corruption. While the tussle led to the resignation and subsequent arrest of Deshmukh, Singh absconded. After remaining incommunicado for months, he returned to Mumbai only to be suspended by the government.
After probing the narcotics case against actor Rhea Chakraborty, then girlfriend of actor Sushant Singh Rajput who died by suicide in 2020, IRS officer Sameer Wankhede remained in the spotlight in 2021 as well. He was in the news thanks to the NCB raid on the Cordelia cruise ship that led to the arrest of Aryan Khan, son of actor Shah Rukh Khan. Soon after the raid, NCP Minister Nawab Malik, whose son-in-law had earlier been arrested by Wankhede in a drugs case, started making a slew of allegations against him – from using fake panchas, planting drugs and using a fake caste certificate to getting job under the Scheduled Tribes quota among other things.
It was a selfie shared with friends that ended up raising questions on the standards of investigation and practices followed by the NCB. In October, as the NCB sought to prove the involvement of Aryan Khan – the 24-year-old son of Shah Rukh Khan – in an “international” drug racket, a selfie taken with Aryan by panch witness Kiran Gosavi at the NCB office went viral. He was later found wanted in a cheating case in Pune.
Photography by Deepak Joshi, Ganesh Shirsekar, Pradip Das, Amit Chakravarty
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