CHANDIGARH: Haryana was on the boil for most part of 2016 due to the Jat quota stir, but Sakshi Malik's Olympic win, the SYL issue and improvement in gender ratio brought cheers to the state, which completed 50 years of its existence. The Justice S N Dhingra Commission of Inquiry, set up to probe the grant of land licences to some companies during the previous Congress regime, also submitted its report during the year.
Congress and principal opposition INLD kept up the attack on the government over its alleged failure on issues related to power, farmers, employees, law and order and governance with prominent leaders including former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Kiran Chowdhury, Ashok Tanwar and Abhay Singh Chautala leading the charge. With 24-year-old Sakshi, the girl from Rohtak, making the country proud by winning a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in wrestling, the Khattar government gave her a cheque of Rs 2.5 crore. Besides, she was also made the state's brand ambassador of Narendra Modi government's flagship 'Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao' programme. Weeks later, 46-year-old Deepa Malik became the first Indian woman athlete to win a medal at the Paralympics in Rio and on "Haryana Day" on November 1, Prime Minister Narendra Modi felicitated her at a function in Gurgaon with a cash award of Rs 4 crore.
The state remained committed to give further boost to sports, with Health and Sports Minister Anil Vij promising to have facilities set up in villages. However, it was the Jat quota stir which kept the government on tenterhooks. Large-scale violence during the agitation in the state claimed 30 lives and caused huge damage to property as well. The violent turn to the Jat stir came barely weeks before the BJP government was to hold its first-ever mega global investor summit meet in Gurgaon in March. Rattled by widespread violence and mounting Opposition attack, the state government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of a retired IPS officer, whose report in May stated around 90 officers including IAS and IPS officers were found indulging in "deliberate negligence" during the agitation, whose major impact was in Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonipat districts. Many heads rolled as the Khattar government got into damage control mode and in mid-May it ordered judicial inquiry to probe the conspiracy behind the incidents which pushed the state into unprecedented "turmoil".
In March end, Haryana Assembly unanimously passed a bill to provide reservation to Jats and five other communities in government jobs and educational institutions, but two months later the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the reservation while hearing a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the act. Turning up the heat on two-time former chief minister Hooda, the State Vigilance Bureau registered a case of cheating and corruption against the then chairman of Haryana Urban Development Authority and some HUDA officials for illegally re-allotting a plot to Associated Journals Limited (AJL) in Panchkula in 2005.
Later, in connection with another case related to alleged irregularities in acquisition of land in Gurgaon in which farmers were allegedly cheated to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore, CBI sleuths carried out search at Chandigarh and Rohtak residences of Hooda. Hooda termed the action in both the cases as "political vendetta" unleashed by the BJP government against its opponents and stepped up his attack on the ruling dispensation on other issues including farmers and employees. In November, in a shot in the arm for Haryana, which has over the years maintained that the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal was the lifeline for the state and its farmers, the Supreme Court held as unconstitutional a 2004 law passed by Punjab to terminate the canal water sharing agreement with neighbouring states.
As the slugfest over the SYL issue between the two neighbouring states continued, Punjab kept maintaining that it does not have any spare water to share with other states. Haryana saw improvement in the skewed sex ratio, with the number of girls crossing the 900 mark, a development which happened for the first time in 10 years. Modi lauded the steps taken by Haryana towards improving the adverse sex ratio and called upon the people of the state to take a pledge in its golden jubilee year to protect the girl child. To mark Haryana completing 50 years of existence as a separate state on November 1, Modi inaugurated year-long celebrations of Haryana's Golden Jubilee from Gurgaon.
He also launched three new schemes for the state, declared seven rural districts of the state Open Defecation Free, eight districts as "kerosene free" and released the commemorative postage stamp of Haryana. The state government also organised an International Gita Mahotsava in December, with the main function being held in Kurukshetra, famous for the epic battle of Mahabharata. 2016 also saw several soldiers from the state losing their lives while fighting for the country.
The Khattar government, which completed two years in office in October, also made a strong pitch to project Haryana as an ideal investment destination based on its strategic location, excellent infrastructure and supportive administrative system. From the "Happening Haryana" global investor summit held in Gurgaon in March, the state garnered investment proposals worth nearly Rs 6 lakh crore.
The state jumped from 14th to 4th spot in terms of "Ease of Doing Business". The BJP government also put several services on digital mode and claimed to have brought "transparency" in recruitments. In June, Union minister Birender Singh was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Haryana. Media baron Subhash Chandra, the BJP supported Independent candidate, won the second seat from Haryana when he defeated Congress and INLD-backed R K Anand, in a contest which was marred by the ink controversy. BJP MP from Kurukshetra Raj Kumar Saini also remained in the news over his alleged anti-Jat remarks. For strictly enforcing the stringent cow protection law in the state, Haryana decided to set up 'Gau Rakshak Task Force' on the pattern of Home Guards.
Charkhi Dadri became the 22nd district of Haryana this year. Haryana's leading industrial town Gurgaon was renamed Gurugram and Gurugram Development Authority was set up to ensure smooth running of affairs of the city. Gurgaon, which is the home for several leading corporate houses, remained in news for the wrong reasons when it was deluged by monsoon rains in July causing the millennium city's worst-ever traffic jams. After panchayats, the Khattar government also decided to fix the minimum educational qualification requirement for candidates contesting in elections for the urban local bodies in the state.
The beginning of the year saw former Indian national hockey team captain Sardar Singh, who hails from Haryana, face allegation of sexual harassment by his estranged girlfriend, an ex-British player. Sardar, however, denied all the allegations leveled against him. India's star wrestler Geeta Phogat tied the knot in November and Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, who plays Geeta's on-screen father in his film "Dangal", attended the wedding in Bhiwani village of Balali. In November, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited the Centre of Excellence for Vegetables (CEV) in Karnal district to get an overview of Indo-Israeli agricultural projects in Haryana. Earlier this year, Khattar launched the construction of a site museum-cum-interpretation centre at Rakhi Garhi in Hissar district, which is the biggest Harappan site in India.
The Haryana government continued with its efforts to revive the mythical Saraswati river. The river did exist, a central government-constituted expert committee claimed in October. In October, Union cabinet approved closure of loss-making tractor division of HMT at Pinjore, near Chandigarh, while sanctioning Rs 718.72 crore for payment of outstanding salaries and other dues at the public sector entity.