As 2018 hobbled its way to the exit door, one cannot help but heave a sigh of relief. This was a tumultuous year all around, what with India reeling under rising crude oil prices, soaring heat, farmers distress, bad politicking, Trump, Brexit. Yes, all this remains even as the date changed from 2018 to 2019 but somehow, this change in the calendar ignites a sense of hope that all these ruffled feathers will smoothen as we greet this new dawn.
As we get ready to sit back and reminiscence about the year gone by, let us do the ritual of taking a quick look at the year that was. Its back to basics - an A,B,C,D... of 2019.
A – Aadhaar remained in the news as the first half was spent in linking and finally verdict came from the SC in Sept’18 that we do not need to link Aadhaar to either bank account or mobile phone. It is now mandatory only for liking it with PAN.
B – Banking industry. The sector saw the maximum upheavals in 2018 – with unearthing of the biggest fraud, resignation of RBI governor, private sector banks coming under fire and a series of other scams and high-profile chief executive officer exits further dented confidence in the system.
C – CBI. For the first time ever, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted raids inside its own headquarters, which was part of a feud between CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
D – Decriminalization. The Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional.
E – Economy. India remained the fastest growing economy in the world despite the several ups and downs though the controversy over the change in the base year cast a cloud of doubt over the numbers being published.
F – Flipkart. Both founders, Sanjay Bansal and Binny Bansal are out but they have encashed big time; will 2019 be the year when we see them announce a new venture, either together or individually?
G –GST. The country’s biggest tax reform since Independence, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) remains a work-in-progress and the rates are being tinkered with as and when required to get political mileage.
H – Hike in US rates. As chalked out, there were four rate hikes in 2018 but Powell trimmed it down to two for 2019, spreading some sense of volatility.
I – ICICI Bank. The bank’s former CEO, Chanda Kochhar, India’s second-largest private-sector lender by assets, was one of the most celebrated women bankers in the country; her unceremonious resignation and ‘scam’ left everyone bewildered.
IL&FS crisis - it sent tremors across the industry. It defaulted on a few repayments, indicating that the giant, with 169 subsidiaries, associates, and joint venture firms, had run out of cash.
J – Jet Airways. The company flew in wild turbulence throughout the second half of 2018 and maybe 2019 will reveal whether or not Goyal will remain in control as the company fits for survival.
K – Kotak Mahindra. The Bank today missed the 31 December deadline set by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to cut Uday Kotak’s holding to 20%.
L – LIC taking over IDBI Bank. This has been a really bad deal for LIC, which is forced to takeover the ‘mistakes’ while paying a big price, just because it’s controlled by the Govt.
M – Mega merger. Dena Bank, Bengaluru’s Vijaya Bank, and the Vadodara-headquartered Bank of Baroda. All in the name of consolidation!
N– Nirav Modi. And Mehul Choksi. They are credited with defrauding our country with the largest fraud ever; PNB was hoodwinked off almost Rs.12,000 crore and we are still grappling with getting them behind bars!
O – Oil. The price ultimately ended 2018 with a 25% drop, the first annual loss since 2015. Oil rose by almost a third between January and October, to a high of $86.74 per barrel. That was the highest level since late 2014.
P – Pakistan election. The election of Imran Khan at the helm of the troubled neighbour left India with mixed feeling – is he with India or against it? But all were most certainly left totally baffled!
Q – Quick! That’s how one would describe the Railway Budget of FY19, which was for the first time in history, combined with the Union Budget. The Railway Budget announcements took exactly three and half minutes in all!
R – Rupee woes! Higher crude oil prices, a strengthening dollar, and foreign investors pulling out of the country weighed on the rupee, which ended up as Asia’s worst performing currency, depreciating by nearly 10% this year.
S – Shikha Sharma. The managing director and chief executive officer of Axis Bank, India’s third-largest private lender, stepped down yesterday, nearly two years before her term ends as RBI was not happy with the lender’s performance under Sharma’s watch.
T – Trade wars. The tu-tu-main-main between India and China kept the world on tenterhooks as the two big super powers fight for ruling the world!
U – UK. The country remains in a turmoil, divided right in the center – to be a part of Brexit or not with many demanding a second referendum.
Urjit Patel – his resignation, a year ahead of his scheduled end of term left everyone shocked. Most certainly the biggest newsmaker of the year!
V – Victory. Or should we say the big loss which the BJP suffered in the Assembly Elections. The thought running is that this loss will spur the BJP into real action and we see a jump back in 2019.
W – Weddings season. It was the year of hi-profile weddings – Priyanka-Jonas, the BIG FAT AMBANI wedding, Deepika-Ranveer, Virat-Anuskha.
X – Xenophobia. This is supposed to be a dislike for people of other countries. But in India, we witnessed this feeling for our countrymen. Scarily, it is only increasing…not just in India but all over the world.
Y – Yes Bank. The Bank very much remained in the limelight for all the wrong reasons and hope it settles in 2019 with a new CEO.
Z – Zero. It is zero tolerance to the word, “intolerance”. It was the most abused and used word, creating huge controversies and needless debates when there are really more issues at the core leading to this intolerance.