NEWSMAKERS 2021: The Year of Young Achievers

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Amid the crisis created by Covid-19 virus, some young Indians and Indian-Americans brought pride and glory to the country. They are the real heroes of 2021 as they gave us hope and inspiration in tough times

Our Bureau
New Delhi

The year 2021 was one of the toughest in living memory. It was a year of disease and death and destruction. But among such mayhem we had some moments of happiness, pride and glory. We look at the young men and women who brought us these moments in a sign that the year 2022 can bring us hope, peace and happiness.

Harnaaz Sandhu

Harnaaz Sandhu has made the entire country proud by bringing home the crown at the 70th Miss Universe 2021, held in Eilat, Israel. After being crowned, Harnaaz could be seen celebrating on the stage with her fellow contestants. Expressing pride in the country’s win, Harnaaz said, “Chak de phatte India, chak de phatte.”

Harnaaz edged out the first runner up Paraguay and the second runner up South Africa.

As part of the final question round, the top three contestants were asked, “What advice would you give to young women watching on how to deal with the pressures they face today?” To this, Harnaaz, delivering her final statement, said, “Well, I think the biggest pressure the youth of today is facing is to believe in themselves. To know that you are unique and that’s what makes you beautiful. Stop comparing yourselves with others and let’s talk about more important things that are happening worldwide. I think this is what you need to understand. Come out, speak for yourself, because you are the leader of your life. You are the voice of your own. I believed in myself and that’s why I am standing here today. Thank you.”

Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra won a historic gold medal in the men’s javelin throw, ensuring India’s best-ever Olympic campaign at the Tokyo 2020 Games making it to the top of Indian Newsmakers 2021 list. Chopra became the first athlete from independent India to win a medal in a track and field event. Neeraj is from the village of Khandra in Haryana’s Panipat district. Neeraj grew in a 17-member joint family and was the eldest of the children.

Parag Agrawal

Parag Agrawal 37, an Indian-origin tech executive, assumed charge as the new Twitter CEO on November 29 (Monday), after Jack Dorsey stepped down as the co-founder of the social media giant emerging as one of the most celebrated faces of Indian Newsmakers 2021. Parag completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering (2005) from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT Bombay) and obtained his MS Degree and Doctorate in Computer Science from Stanford University.

Meghana Musunuri & Satyam Mishra

Meghana Musunuri from Hyderabad and Satyam Mishra from Bihar, have made it to the list of top 50 finalists for the prestigious US $1 million 2021 Global Teacher Prize. Meghana Musunuri is social studies, English, and mathematics teacher from Hyderabad, India in one of the teachers to have made it to the list of top fifty Global Teacher Prize 2021 finalists while Satyam Mishra is a Math teacher from Bhagalpur, Bihar, India, who is determined to change the way children look at the world through his pedagogy. Thus, both of them emerged as prominent Indian newsmakers on a global stage.

Adar Poonawalla
Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of Serum Institute of India (SII) – the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, at the onset of 2021 was in news concerning the production of COVID-19 vaccine Covishield – the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine manufactured in India, and announcing its accessibility to healthcare workers, elderly citizens and to public in general. Poonawalla continues his earnest efforts in increasing the vaccine production from 70 million in March to 90 million in June at SII, besides assuring of getting clearance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for Covishield.

Bhavya Lal

In the first week of February, Bhavya Lal an Indian-American scientist who oversaw NASA’s transition under President Joe Biden’s administration, was appointed as the Acting Chief of Staff of the U.S. space agency – NASA for the first 100 days. Before that, she served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Teams for both NASA and the Department of Défense. Bhavya Lal serves as the senior advisor to the NASA Administrator for budget and finance.

Dr. Swati Mohan

Dr. Swati Mohan, as Indian American Aerospace Engineer with NASA made it to the newsroom in the third week of February 2021 for successfully landing NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars. She acted as the Guidance, Navigation and Control lead for NASA Mars Rover. Dr. Swati also provided much of the commentary from mission control during its tense entry, descent and landing. This was significant after the rover had been in the space for seven months, with some tense moments as it navigated a tricky touchdown after plunging through the Martian atmosphere. And Indian-born Swati spearheaded the mission as she steered the controls and the landing of the rover.

Samir Banerjee

A 17-years-old Indian-origin American tennis prodigy Samir Banerjee won the Wimbledon boys’ singles title on July 11 defeating Victor Lilov in an all-American final. Samir’s father, Kunal, was born in Assam, and his mother was raised in Andhra Pradesh before migrating to the United States in the mid-1980s.

Mirabai Chanu

Mirabai Chanu from Imphal in Manipur made history by becoming India’s first Silver medalist in weightlifting event at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 held on August 5, 2021. Chanu won the silver medal in the 49kg weight category. During the 49 Kg category final, the 26-year-old Chanu lifted 87 kg in snatch and 115 kg in the Clean and Jerk event to achieve a total of 202, making Indian history. It was Mirabai Chanu who opened India’s medal account at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by striking silver medal thus figuring in the list of prominent newsmakers of 2021

PV Sindhu

Indian ace badminton player Pusarla Venkata Sindhu aka PV Sindhu, 26, won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 held August 1, 2021 on after defeating China’s He Bing Jiao 21-13 21-15. With this PV Sindhu becomes the first Indian woman to win two Olympic medals individually emerging a newsmaker in 2021. She was awarded the Padma Shri 2020 as well as selected as BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year in March 2020.

Falguni Nayar

Indian businesswoman and Nykaa founder Falguni Nayar became India’s richest self-made woman billionaire and is among the world’s richest women as her company had a blockbuster listing in the stock markets on November 10. Her net worth now stands at a whopping Rs 48,000 crore. 58-year-old Nayar started Nykaa eight years ago, and it has since then become one of the most popular online platforms for beauty and personal care products.

Sachin Tendulkar

Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar is among the 50 most influential people on Twitter this year, placed at number 35, according to annual research carried out by consumer intelligence company Brandwatch. The legendary right-hander is ranked above the likes of American actors Dwayne Johnson and Leonardo Di Caprio, and former first lady of the United States Michelle Obama among others.

American singer Taylor Swift is at number 1 spot and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is placed at number two in the list. The research cited Tendulkar’s “appreciable real work for the less fortunate, lending his voice and presence for the right causes, his inspired fans following his work and his partner brands’ relevant impactful campaigns” for his inclusion in the list.

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