The Game Changers 2000 | 2009

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Photo: From the Book ‘Rajiv’ (Viking)

First Lady

They derided her as the “reader” but Sonia ended the decade as the undisputed leader

SHE IS THE person of the decade. At a time when both the Congress and the idea of secularism were floundering, the Italy-born widow of Rajiv Gandhi polished her Hindi and hit the road. Not only did she steer the UPA to power, stopping the seeming BJP juggernaut, she wrested a moral aura for herself by famously listening to her “inner voice”. In a masterstroke, she anointed the scrupulously honest Manmohan Singh as prime minister, thereby setting the tone for a calmer, less brazen, politics. At a time when all economic policy was geared towards augmenting the middle-class and the rich, she pushed for several key pro-poor schemes, including NREGA, the RTI, and the farm loan waiver, which paved the way for the return of the UPA in 2009. She has already done enough to go down in history as the most powerful politician in India never to hold office.

Candid Camera

Reality television gave ordinary Indians a chance to win big – and to watch themselves on screen

THOUGH STILL A distant second in TRP ratings to the soap opera segment, reality TV grabbed plenty of national airtime this decade. The moral outrage about people being paid to answer innocuous GK questions that surrounded the first Kaun Banega Crorepati in 2001 seemed an aeon away by the time the bare-your-seediestsecrets- for-cash Sach ka Saamna routine rolled around in 2009. The Indian viewer has turned voyeur.

Photo: AP

Bullish Bearings

The rollercoaster BSE threw up many millionaires and took even more investors for a ride

THE BOURSE CROSSED the 20,000-point mark and then fell by nearly 40 percent in the last two years of the decade. It pushed a record number of millionaires in the market, making “investment confidence” a hallowed phrase. But in reality, less than 4 percent Indians invested in the markets. The rest still preferred the generation- old bank accounts, insurance policies, real estate and the yellow metal.

Photo: REUTERS

Healthcare Inc.

The luxury healthcare segment has grown by eating into the common man’s basic medical requirements

SPECIALISED TERTIARY healthcare emerged as the medical industry’s cash cow to produce world-class medical care. This version attracts a global clientele to a setting less like a hospital and more like a five-star hotel. But the rise of the specialist is not only making falling sick expensive (and often inhuman). It’s also taking the focus and resources away from primary and secondary healthcare that accounts for over 90 percent of the country’s medical needs.

Uncle George

Despite having made the USfriendless across the world, George bush proved a hit in India

IT STUNNED MANY when PM Manmohan Singh gushed to the former US president, “The people of India love you.” Bush brought the two countries closer than ever, changing US positions on South Asian security and Kashmir. Under Bush, the US conceded Pakistan’s hand in terrorism in India. Of course, the Indo-US nuclear deal was the biggest — and most controversial — part of Bush’s legacy vis-à-vis India.

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