India. At least 25,000 people were killed in an
earthquake in the state of Gujarat in January, and more than
a million became homeless. Great cultural historical values
were wasted when the city of Bhuj with a
multi-hundred-year-old walled city center was destroyed. The
reconstruction work was estimated to cost more than SEK 50
billion. The disaster revealed serious violations of
building standards, and in October, Gujarat's chief of
government resigned following criticism for his way of
dealing with the disaster.
In February, the government presented a budget for
2001-02 with strong incentive measures for the industry,
among other things. lower taxes. Nevertheless, the
development was not as bright as the government expected.
Growth decreased to just over 5% compared to an estimated at
least 6%. The International Monetary Fund recommended tough
austerity, faster privatization of state-owned companies and
a softening of labor law.
Countryaah, the government was scandalized in March, when both
ministers and senior officials at the Department of Defense
and military revealed themselves as batsmen. In front of a
hidden camera, some 30 officials received bribes from people
who said they represented a company in the military
equipment industry but who were journalists at the internet
magazine tehelka.com. The revelations led to the resignation
of Secretary of Defense George Fernandes, despite not
personally being involved in the scandal. He returned to his
post in October, when the international security situation
The government parties suffered more setbacks in the
state elections in May, all of which resulted in victories
for the opposition. In West Bengal, the Communist-dominated
Left Front won for the sixth time in a row.
Until May, the army retained the unilateral ceasefire in
the state of Kashmir, which was announced in November 2000.
The Muslim separatist movements rejected offers of
negotiations, because India did not want Pakistan to
participate in them. Meanwhile, the almost daily clashes
continued. When the ceasefire was formally discontinued, at
least 1,200 people had been killed for six months. A summit
in July in the city of Agra between I's Prime Minister Atal
Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf was
unsuccessful and the violence continued. In October, 38
people were killed in a suicide attack against Kashmir's
An armed attack on the federal government in New Delhi in
December, when 14 people including the five assailants were
killed, triggered the strongest military rally along the
Indian-Pakistan border since the war in 1971. India identified
two Kashmiri extremist groups with bases in Pakistan as
responsible for the act and demanded that Pakistan intervene
against them, which happened to some extent.
Several prominent politicians retired in 2001. In April,
the farmer leader Devi Lal, Deputy Prime Minister 1989-91,
passed away, and in July, Phoolan Devi was shot dead. She
was one of I's lowest caste and became notorious for having
forcibly rebelled against the caste repression. The
internationally renowned movie "Bandit Queen" was an attempt
to portray her life. Congress Party Vice President Madhavrao
Scindia died in a plane crash in October.
In the February 1998 elections, the BJP won big. Along
with its allies, it got 251 seats followed by the Congress
Party with 166 and the Unity Front with 96. For the second
time in 22 months, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was appointed prime
minister. In May, the BJP allowed the government to conduct
a series of nuclear test blasts, which drastically worsened
relations with Pakistan, giving this a pretext for the same
month to conduct similar test blasts.
A bill to reserve at least 1/3 of parliamentary seats for
women was subject to extensive boycott when it came up for
consideration in July. Opponents of the bill led by two
socialist parties conducted protests outside parliament and
constantly interrupted negotiations inside. Acc. the
opponents were the proposition unsuitable because it did not
set specific quotas for women from the lowest castes. The
bill's main supporters were the government coalition and the
largest opposition party, the Congress party. It was the
first time the two blocs could agree politically.
The government coalition collapsed in April 1999 when the
leader of the AIADMK Tamil Party, Jayaram Jayalalitha,
withdrew two of his ministers from the government after
Prime Minister Vajpayee rejected the resignation of Defense
Minister George Fernandes to remove India's naval commander,
Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. As the opposition failed to come up
with any government alternative, President KR Narayanan
disbanded the House of Representatives and printed new
In June, there was a new clash with Pakistan after
Pakistani forces crossed the demarcation line set by the UN.
About 1,000 people perished during the fighting. Human
rights organization Human Rights Watch criticized serious
human rights violations on both sides of the border -
perpetrated by officers and soldiers from both sides. The
Indian security forces were charged with carrying out
summary executions, rapes and torture.
After the 5-day elections in October 99, the BJP-led
government coalition was reinstated as it captured 293 out
of Parliament's 545 seats. Despite the victory, the election
was also a decline for the BJP itself, while the left and
the regional parties were advancing. More than half of the
seats were now beyond the control of the two major parties.
The election went hardest over the Congress Party, which had
its historically worst election with just 120 seats - 20
fewer than in the previous election. The BJP's increasing
reliance on the smaller parties will undoubtedly help create
a more difficult situation for the government in the future.
Over 1 million people became homeless in the state of
Gujarat in India's northwest corner after a violent
earthquake in February 2001. At least 30,000 were killed and
55,000 injured. The state had been hit by a cyclone in 1998
and traces of it remained visible. After the Muslim imam,
Mufti Imtiaz, declared that it was TV and its transmissions
that triggered the earthquake, the Muslim residents of the
cities of Ahmadabad and Surat in Gujarat began throwing
their televisions out of the windows and burning them in the
streets as they did television's immoral broadcasts
responsible for the devastating effects of the earthquake.
According to the mufti, "the thoughts of the TV journalists
had been poisoned and this had provoked Allah who had
therefore triggered the earthquake".