Seventy-two years ago, on this day, India took baby steps to become one of the largest democracies in the world, overcoming a plethora of challenges to earn global recognition. India has come a long way since Independence, leaving behind a string of landmarks that define its journey from the agony of Partition to a strong, powerful and developing nation.
In its 72 years of independence, India has several achievements to its credit. It has built a modern economy (second fastest growing economy), remained a democracy, lifted millions out of poverty, has become a space and nuclear power and developed a robust foreign policy.
Here are the top 73 important developments in India’s journey since Independence:
1) Partition (1947): In one of the most defining moments of India’s history, British India was divided into two countries India and Pakistan along sectarian lines. More than two lakh people were killed in ensuing riots and 14 million displaced.
2) The first Kashmir War: It was fought between India and Pakistan over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir from 1947 to 1948. It ended with Maharaja Hari Singh signing an Instrument of Accession to India.
3) Right to vote: From the very first day after Independence, India gave every adult the right to vote. In the US, the right to vote for every individual was given about 150 years after their independence.
4) Railway network nationalisation: Railways network was nationalised in 1951 and was initially divided into three zones. Indian Railways is now one of the world’s largest railway networks comprising 119,630 km of tracks and 7,216 stations.
5) First general elections: India took a democratic leap by conducting its first general elections in 1951, with Congress registering a thumping victory by winning 364 of the 489 seats. Jawaharlal Nehru became India’s first prime minister.
6) First Asian Games: India hosted the first-ever Asian Games in the year 1951 in New Delhi.
7) Asia’s first nuclear reactor: India designed and built Asia’s first nuclear reactor Apsara nuclear reactor on August 4, 1956.
8) First movie nominated for Oscars: Mother India (directed by Mehboob Khan) was the first Indian movie to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1958.
9) Green Revolution: The Green Revolution in India in 1960 saw an increase in food grain production, with development of high-yielding varieties of wheat and pulses.
10) 1962 Sino-India war: The trigger for the war between India and China was a border issue, with the Chinese side refusing to accept the McMohan Line and Line of Actual Control. The war ended with China declaring a ceasefire in a month.
11) Bank nationalisation: Fourteen banks were nationalised by the government on July 19, 1969. The second wave of nationalisation in banking came into effect on April 1980.
12) White Revolution: In 1970, India saw the White Revolution (Operation Flood) — the world’s biggest dairy development program, pioneered by Verghese Kurien. It transformed India from a milk deficient nation into the world’s largest milk producer.
13) 1971 Liberation of Bangladesh: East Pakistanis fought for independence from Pakistan and achieved it on March 26, 1971, under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
14) Simla Agreement: India and Pakistan signed the pact in 1972 “to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations”.
15) Chipko Movement: The Chipko Andolan was a forest conservation movement in India. It began in 1973 in Reni village of Chamoli district, Uttarakhand.
16) Pokhran 1: India conducted its first nuclear test, codenamed “Smiling Buddha”, in the year 1974. With this, India broke into the list of five nuclear-powered nations.
17) 1974 JP Movement: It was a movement initiated by students in Bihar against misrule and corruption. It was led by socialist Jayaprakash Narayan.
18) First Indian satellite made: India designed first space satellite in 1975, named it after astronomer Aryabhata.
19) Emergency: Due to prevailing “internal tensions”, then prime minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency that lasted from 1975 to 1977. It resulted in the suspension of elections and curbing of civil liberties.
20) 1976 mass sterilisation: The campaign was initiated by Sanjay Gandhi and saw about 6.2 million men sterilised in a year, with about 2000 dead owing to botched=-up surgeries.
21) Morarji Desai becomes first non-Congress PM: The Janata Party, a group of parties opposed to the Emergency, defeated the Congress in 1977 elections and Morarji Desai became the first non-Congress PM of independent India.
22) Mandal Commission formed: The Mandal Commission was set up in 1979 under BP Mandal to identify the socially and educationally backward classes of India.
23) India wins first Cricket World Cup: In 1983, India, under Kapil Dev, defeated West Indies by 43 runs to win its first cricket World Cup.
24) India sends man into space in 1984: India sent its first astronaut, Rakesh Sharma, into space in 1984 in a joint mission with the Soviet Union.
25) Operation Blue Star: It was the codename for military action to remove militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.
26) Anti-Sikh riots: The 1984 anti-Sikh massacre was a series of attacks against Sikhs after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. The carnage left nearly 3,000 people dead.
27) Bhopal gas tragedy: The Bhopal disaster was a gas leak incident on the night of December 3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh that killed more than 3000 people and left thousands with disabilities.
28) Shah Bano case (1985): The Supreme Court had upheld the right to alimony in the case. But the Congress passed the Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986, overturning the SC verdict.
29) 1986 Bofors scandal: The Bofors scandal was a major corruption case involving the purchase of howitzer guns between India and Sweden and is believed to be one of the reasons for the downfall of the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989 elections.
30) India hosts World Cup: The 1987 Cricket World Cup was held in India and Pakistan – the first such tournament to be held outside England. Australia lifted the trophy for the first time.
31) Bhagalpur riots 1989: The Bhagalpur riots of 1989 were one of the worst Hindu-Muslim violence in independent India at the time and violent incident continued for two months, leaving 1000 people dead and 50,000 displaced.
32) 1990 Mandal agitation: The whole country was in the grip of protests against giving government jobs to certain castes on the basis of birth.
33) 1990 Kuwait airlift: The 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait was carried out from August 13, 1990, to October 20, 1990, after the invasion of Kuwait. Air India helped evacuate nearly 175,000 people.
34) 1991 globalisation of economy: Indian economy opened the doors for free trade by foreign investors.
35) Rajiv Gandhi assassinated: Then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil while on a campaign trail at Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991.
36) Babri Masjid demolition: On December 6, 1992, the disputed Babri Masjid at Ayodhya was demolished by Hindu nationalist groups leading to riots across India, Over 2,000 people were killed in the riots.
37) 1992 Securities scam: The 1992 Securities Scam is one of the biggest scams in the history of India stock market and was perpetrated by a stockbroker named Harshad Mehta.
38) Mumbai blasts: The 1993 Bombay blasts were a series of bombings coordinated by gangster Dawood Ibrahim. It resulted in over 250 deaths.
39) First BJP govt formed: In 1998, the BJP formed its first government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee but it lasted for only a year. Following fresh polls, BJP came back to power, becoming the first non-Congress government to do so.
40) Pokhran II: India conducted a series of five nuclear bomb tests at Pokhran, Rajasthan, in May 1998 under the codename “Operation Shakti”. It led to India becoming a full-fledged nuclear state.
41) Delhi-Lahore bus service: In its inaugural run on February 19, 1999, the bus carried then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was to attend a summit in Lahore.
42) 1999 Kargil war: India launched ‘Operation Vijay’ after Pakistani forces infiltrated inside LoC. The war ended in July, with India successfully recapturing Tiger Hill.
43) IC-814 hijack: Indian Airlines flight IC-814, on its way back to Delhi from Kathmandu, on December 24, 1999, was taken over by five Pakistani hijackers with 180 passengers and crew on board. They were released in exchange of three terrorists held by India.
44) Lahore declaration: In a bid to quell the tensions, India and Pakistan signed the Lahore Declaration in February 1999 to avoid unauthorised operational use of nuclear weapons.
45) Match-fixing scandal: In 2000, South Africa’s captain Hansie Cronje was in contact with match-fixing syndicates in India and had accepted bribes asking cricketers to deliberately under-perform. The names of Indian players like Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja also cropped up.
46) New states created: The new states of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand were formed on the 1st, 9th, and 15th of November 2000, respectively. It changed the count of Indian states from 25 to 28.
47) Golden Quadrilateral project: In 2001, the Vajpayee govt launched the Golden Quadrilateral, the largest highway project in India connecting four major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata.
48) 2002 Gujarat riots: The burning of a train in Godhra on February 27, 2002, triggered one of the worst communal riots in the history of India, leaving 1,044 dead, 223 missing and 2,500 injured.
49) Right to Information Act: The RTI Act was passed by Parliament in 2005, throwing government departments open to scrutiny and helping people to acquire any information they want from government officials.
50) MGNREGA Act: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Development Act, which is the largest work guarantee programme in the world, was enacted in 2005 with the primary objective of guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households.
51) Reopening Nathu La: The mountain pass in the Himalayas that connects Sikkim and Tibet is one of the three open trading border posts between China and India. It was sealed by India after the 1962 Sino-Indian War. The pass was reopened in 2006.
52) 2004 tsunami: A huge tsunami triggered by a massive undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean killed an estimated 10,000 people in India, affecting the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andaman.
53) Chandrayaan 1: India successfully launched Chandrayaan in October 2008 to explore the moon. One of the greatest achievements of Chandrayaan was the discovery of water molecules in the lunar soil.
54) First gold medal in Olympics: Abhinav Bindra won the gold medal in the 10m Air Rifle event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games.
55) 2008 Mumbai attacks: Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out a series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, leaving 166 people dead.
56) Right to Education Act: Parliament passed the RTE Bill in 2009, making education a fundamental right of every child and bridged the gap between different classes of society. It requires all private schools to reserve 25 per cent seats for poor children.
57) First indigenous nuclear submarine launched: On July 26, 2009, India launched INS Arihant, the country’s first indigenous nuclear submarine armed with ballistic missiles with a range of 3,500 km.
58) Commonwealth Games 2010: India hosted the 2010 Common Wealth Games in Delhi but it made noise for the corruption cases that followed. For the first time in the history of the Games, India won over 100 medals (101) and stood second, after Australia.
59) India wins second cricket world cup: On April 2, 2011, India lifted the cricket World Cup for the second time under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni by defeating Sri Lanka in the final.
60) Lokpal agitation: Spearheaded by activist Anna Hazare, India Against Corruption movement that began in 2011 was a series of protests held across India for a Jan Lokpal bill to check graft in politics. The bill was finally passed by Parliament in 2013.
61) National Food Security Act passed: The National Food Security Act, 2013 (also Right to Food Act), which aims to provide subsidised food grains to approximately two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people, was signed into law on September 12, 2013.
62) Mars Orbiter Mission: On November 5, 2013, Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched Mars Orbiter Mission to probe Mars. It is the first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit, and the first nation in the world to do so in its first attempt.
63) Polio eradication: In March 2014, the World Health Organisation certified the South-East Asian region – which includes India, a polio-free region.
64) Telangana statehood: On June 2, 2014, Telangana was separated from the northwestern part of Andhra Pradesh as the newly formed 29th state with Hyderabad as its permanent capital.
65) India launches own GPS system: India successfully launched NAVIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), an independent regional navigation satellite system on par with US-based GPS.
66) Demonetisation: In 2016, the government announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes.
67) Goods and Services Tax: GST (Goods and Services Tax) is one indirect tax for the whole nation and became effective from July 1, 2017. It is the resultant tax after subsuming major central and state taxes.
68) SC strikes down triple talaq: The Supreme Court struck down the practice of instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat in which Muslim men divorce their wives by uttering talaq three times in quick succession.
69) SC decriminalises homosexuality: The Supreme Court restored a landmark Delhi High Court judgment in 2018 that decriminalised homosexuality.
70) Tejas gets nod clearance to be inducted in IAF: In February 2019, India’s first indigenously developed light combat aircraft Tejas received the final operational clearance for induction into IAF.
71) Mission Shakti: On March 27, 2019, India successfully conducted Mission Shakti – an anti-satellite missile test that could destroy satellites in space through missiles on the ground.
72) Chnadrayaan 2: In India’s quest to land its first spacecraft on the moon, Chandrayaan-2, riding the powerful GSLV Mk-III rocket, was successfully launched at 2.43 pm on July 22 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
73) J&K bifurcation and end of special status: On August 6, 2019, the Parliament passed a bill dividing Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh and also adopted a resolution scrapping special status of the state under Article 370.