Udayavni Special

India’s first COVID-19 case, gold smuggling case and 1 air crash; Kerala had roller coaster 2020


PTI, Jan 3, 2021, 11:20 AM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala had an eventful 2020 when it reported the country’s first COVID-19 case, witnessed a fatal air crash and saw a top bureaucrat being jailed in the sensational gold smuggling case, with the opposition charging the buck stopped at the CMO.

After 28 years and several twists and turns, curtains came down on Sister Abhaya’s death, when a CBI court held she had been murdered by a priest and a nun to keep under wraps their illicit relationship and sentenced them to life terms.

The country’s worst fears came true in January when a Kerala student tested positive for the dreaded novel coronavirus, upon her return from Wuhan, the sprawling capital of China’s Hubei province from where the contagion first emerged.

Two other students from the Chinese city also subsequently tested positive but all three had later recovered.

Though Kerala’s pandemic management came in for initial global praise after it claimed to have flattened the curve, things took a different shape when infections started going up sharply later.

The COVID-19 caseload in the State has now touched 7.71 lakh and over 5,000 cases were reported on Saturday, while the total fatalities mounted to 3,116.

Schools and colleges like elsewhere in the country were shut in the State following the spread of the virus, and temples, cinema theatres and malls were out of bounds.

The sensational gold smuggling through diplomatic baggage at Thiruvananthapuram airport became a big talking point with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s principal secretary, M Sivasankar, who was subsequently suspended, being arrested for his alleged links with key accused, Swapna Suresh.

Gold worth Rs 15 crore and weighing 30 kg was seized from diplomatic baggage at the airport here in July last. Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP attacked the government, alleging that the chief minister’s office (CMO) had links in the matter.

A multi-central agency probe by the Customs, Enforcement Directorate and National Investigation Agency into various aspects of the case prompted Vijayan to take up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ”roving probe” which he said was demoralising honest officers in the State.

Besides the arrest of several persons, the State’s Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel and Additional Private Secretary of the chief minister, CM Raveendran, were among those who were questioned as part of the probe.

Twin tragedies struck Kerala on August 7 when heavy rains triggered a massive landslide at Pettimudi in Idukki district, flattening a row of tin-roofed houses of plantation workers, killing at least 70 people were buried alive.

Later in the day, an Air India Express flight from Dubai crashed while landing at the Karipur airport in Malappuram after it overshot the tabletop runway and fell into a valley 35 feet below. Nineteen passengers, the pilot and co-pilot were killed in the mishap.

Bringing to a closure the mysterious death of 21-year- old Abhaya, a CBI court here convicted Father Thomas Kottoor and nun Sephy for the murder of the young nun and sentenced them to life imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 6.5 lakh and Rs 5.5 lakh, respectively.

The recently held local body polls came as a big morale booster for the CPI(M)-led LDF which managed an impressive win against its opposition Congress-led UDF and the BJP-headed NDA.

Eyeing the young voters in the 2021 Assembly polls, likely in April-May, the CPI(M) appointed 21 year-one old Arya Rajendran as Thiruvananthapuram Mayor, making her the youngest in the country to be elevated to the post while many young faces were given posts in other parts of the State.

When the Kerala government wanted to adopt an Assembly resolution against the three contentious central farm laws, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s unprecedented action not to accord sanction to a special session on December 23 came in for severe criticism from the ruling and opposition parties.

However, after government clarifications to Khan, the one-day session was held on December 31 which passed the unanimous resolution against the central laws. Ryots, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting near Delhi for over a month now demanding a repeal of the legislations.

Kerala had earlier passed a unanimous resolution against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, becoming the first State to do so. It filed a plaint against CAA in the Supreme Court, besides organising a 620 km long human chain from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram in protest.

Amid a UDF boycott, Khan presented his policy address in January 2020 and read out references to the anti-CAA resolution passed by the House, despite disagreeing with it.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi led an anti-CAA rally at Kalpetta in his Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in January.

The CPI(M) led LDF faced embarrassment when the ED arrested Bineesh Kodiyeri, son of party State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in Bengaluru in October in connection with his alleged links with an accused in a drugs case in that city.

Later, Balakrishnan stepped aside citing health reasons and handed over charge to LDF convener, A Vijayaraghavan.

The Opposition UDF also had to face the blushes with the arrest of former minister VK Ibrahim Kunju (IUML) in connection with the alleged irregularity in the construction of the Palarivattom flyover in Kochi.

IUML MLA MC Kamarudeen was arrested in connection with a multi-crore financial fraud relating to gold jewellery business while another IUML lawmaker KM Shaji was questioned by ED in connection with a bribery case.

Kerala withdrew the general consensus accorded to CBI to exercise its powers in the State, joining the non-BJP-ruled Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh to initiate such a move.

On the Supreme Court’s directions, four multi-storeyed apartment complexes in Maradu in Kochi were demolished in January last by implosion for violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules.

The Centre’s decision to privatise the international airport here, along with five others, left the ruling and opposition camps fuming. An all-party meeting wanted the Centre to withdraw the move, but the latter maintained Kerala failed to qualify in the transparent bidding process.

Adani Enterprises had won the rights to run the six airports, including Thiruvananthapuram, even as Congress MP Shashi Tharoor welcomed the union government’s decision.

Jnanpith award winner Akkitham Narayanan Namboothiri, poet Sugatha Kumari, music composer MK Arjunan, Rajya Sabha member and media baron MP Veerendra Kumar and veteran RSS idealogue Parameshwaran among others died in 2020.

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