Their stories in print, on television and the digital media that won them the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism awards for work done in 2015.
Reporting from J&K and the Northeast(PRINT)
Maddipatla Rajshekhar, Scroll.in: For a series of reports on governance, education and healthcare from Mizoram, as India completed 25 years of liberalisation
“It has been 25 years since the economy of India was liberalised. On the occasion, we decided to visit six states and see what had changed; we did not really decide on any subject. The idea was to report on deeper processes shaping India. The first state we visited was Mizoram. There I reported on political corruption, education, healthcare, financial viability, the issues confronting the minority communities and how South Korean soft power was affecting the state.”
Esha Roy, The Indian Express: For her report on Haollenphai, the village on the Indo-Myanmar border that’s preparing to be a Smart City. “There was talk about ‘smart cities’ all over the country. In Manipur, all development was seen to have taken place only in Imphal. So now the idea was to take it to the border. This village (Haollenphai) is in the Moreh area on the Indo-Myanmar border and I went to see it. Imphal Valley is dominated by Meities (Manipuri Hindus) and this particular area is dominated by the Kuki tribe. I talked to people as well as a few members of the Kuki underground insurgent group. I then realised that the whole controversy regarding the Smart City was basically a turf war between two insurgent groups — Kuki Insurgent Group and Valley Insurgent Group. The Kukis were not allowing any government official to come or any development to happen in that area. It was all about area domination. They (Kukis) felt that if they allowed a project backed by the Manipur government in Imphal to come there, then the people from Imphal would take over the area. The insecurities of the different tribes was leading to conflict as well as hampering development in the area.”
Subhajit Sengupta, CNN-IBN: For his documentary, ‘Killing Fields of Assam’, on Adivasi killings in Bodoland. “In the Northeast, both politics and conflict are centered on identity and ethnicity. The struggle for a separate Bodoland follows a similar pattern. In the documentary, I tried to go beyond the questions of ‘who killed whom’, and instead decided to concentrate on the ‘why’. What triggered the clash, who gains once the victims flee, and most importantly, is a greed for land behind the ethnic strife? These were some of the issues I focussed on.”
Santosh Kumar, India Today: For his report on the BJP’s Mahasampark Abhiyaan. “The BJP claimed to have enrolled 11 crore members through its Mahasampark Abhiyaan through a missed call process. The whole process of registration, however, was to be complete only after BJP workers visited the houses and got users of the subscribed mobile numbers to give another missed call to a new designated number. During this, the party found that 4 million of the 11 million members did not exist at all.”
Sanjay Nandan, ABP News: For his in-depth series, ‘Ramrajya’, on innovative global practices that could benefit India. “There was a new government at the Centre and we wanted to see if a concept like ‘Ramrajya’ was achievable. So we travelled to eight countries, examined some of their policies, and analysed if it could be adapted in India. For the 10-episode documentary, we visited Cuba, which has the best public health services, even better than the US. We also visited Finland, which boasts of one of the best public-funded education systems. Then there was Denmark, which had managed to make governance free of all corruption.”
Syeda Afifa Khatoon, News 24: For her series on MCD schools that were being run only on paper, with no students. “I had heard of one school in Old Delhi, where the building had been recently renovated but there were no students. When we visited the school, we found that the guard and his family had been living in the building, and teachers would come every 15 days, sign the attendance sheet and leave. We then went on to trace at least 6-7
other such schools in North Delhi, where the teachers were drawing salaries but the schools had remained shut for years.”
Firos Khan M, Madhyamam Daily: For his reports on the travails faced by Indian expats in the Gulf. “In a six-part series titled ‘Migration to Debt Trap’ we documented the struggle and anguish of Indian expats living in Gulf countries. We found an alarming rise in the number of suicide cases in the community, mostly triggered by financial liabilities.”
Nileena Atholi, Mathrubhumi: For her reports on human rights violations committed on the transgender community in Kerala. “Transgenders face a lot of problems and discrimination in Kerala. More than 90 per cent of them are school dropouts. They are not even allowed to work as labourers and are forced into prostitution, due to which they are moving away from Kerala to places in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.”
G Pramod Shastri, TV 9: For his series on the high fluoride levels in Karnataka’s drinking water. “In Karnataka’s Chitradurga and Tumakuru districts, hundreds of people were falling ill due to the high fluoride content in the water drawn from borewells. Several complaints of water contamination were lodged with the district administration. When we visited the districts, we realised that the contamination was a result of people digging extremely deep borewells — the deeper you go, the higher the chances of contamination. The sheer scale of the people affected also led to several socio-economic problems in the regions.
Pritha Chatterjee and Aniruddha Ghosal, The Indian Express: For their series ‘Death by Breath’ on what led to Delhi becoming one of the most polluted cities in the world. “We conducted detailed interviews with academics, politicians and several other stakeholders, to understand the reasons that led to this development. In the end, the revelations pointed to one thing, that despite red flags being raised at various levels, consecutive governments and the administration failed to respond,” says Chatterjee. “During our month-long investigation, we tried to identify the moment when Delhi’s CNG gains were lost. What we found was that even though a number of academic studies and research papers, some funded by the government, had been published on the issue, the government had largely ignored it,” says Ghosal.
Sushil C Bahuguna, NDTV India: For his investigative reports on how hydro-power projects were further damaging the eco-system of Uttarakhand, a state ravaged by the 2013 floods. “The floods and landslides in Kedarnath in 2013 was a natural disaster, but hydro-power projects caused further damage. They obstructed the flow of rivers and left a lot of muck on the river banks. I also visited Srinagar in Pauri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand with a team of scientists. The team found evidence of “weakening of mountains” due to excessive construction.”
Uncovering India Invisible(PRINT)
Ashwaq Masoodi, Mint: For her series on those breaking the caste barrier – from businesswomen to wrestlers. “When we thought about the series, we broadly wanted to focus on the aspirations of India and examine a cross-section of all barriers, including caste, religion and gender. I had been writing on Dalits for a while now — going to their conferences, meeting NGOs which work for them and meeting people at DICCI (Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry). That’s when I got to know about some people attempting to break the caste barrier by not being embarrassed of their Dalit identity, asserting it in a way that would help them move ahead in life. After the series, a lot of the discourse revolved around aspiration, at least on social media, as far as I could see. I remember people emailing me and telling me how they thought it was their story, except that the characters were different. The urban elite do not define India, these stories from villages in Haryana and Bihar do, and that is why people connected with them.”
Sarada Lahangir, Kalinga TV: For multiple reports on Odisha’s farmer suicides, starvation deaths in tribal communities and women in conflict zones. “I did a five-part series titled, ‘Many Tales, Many Agonies’, on a gamut of issues that were specific to the region, though not known to the world outside. I worked on tribal bidi workers and the difficult conditions they worked in. I also followed up on my story on deaths due to starvation in the tribal communities.”
Business and Economics Journalism(PRINT)
Khushboo Narayan, The Indian Express: For a series of reports that probed top corporates who are loan defaulters. “In April 2015, (then RBI governor) Raghuram Rajan wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on the top companies that had defrauded the bank. So that was the genesis of it. While people wrote about how he (Rajan) had written to the PM about Non Performing Assets (NPAs), no one had written about what had happened in those companies. After discussing it with my editor, I decided to write about the top five defaulters. I started working on it in August. It took three months and was published in December. In all the cases, there was forensic auditing being done, there were agencies who were investigating. I had numerous meetings with regulators, RTI activists who had filed applications asking for replies from the bank, and also met bankers and figured out what happened in each company. I also reached out to some of the investors of the companies who were carrying out private investigations.”
Rajeev Dubey, Business Today: For his report on India’s burgeoning corporate debt. “When we were meeting representatives of companies, we got the sense that a crisis was building because companies had piled up debts and were not able to service them. Besides, our sources in banks had been complaining that companies were not being able to service their debts because of interest payouts etc. We put two and two together and figured that there was a crisis on the corporate as well as on the banking side. We realised that there was almost Rs 12 lakh crore in bad debt, almost one-fifth of the Rs 60 lakh crore in loan amount that banks had given to companies. A lot of things happened after our story — the 5:25 rule that was put out, the RBI getting after companies to sort out their balance sheets and so on.”
Archana Shukla, CNBC TV18: For her series, ‘What’s Ailing Rural India’, which reflected on the gap between government projects and their delivery. “I think we often forget to discuss the rural economy, which contributes to the GDP of the country in a big way. Through the series, we wanted to study the consumption patterns and understand the reasons for rural spending not picking up, which again is linked to the entire agrarian crisis. For the report, we covered the agrarian crisis in Marathwada and the drought in Bundelkhand. In two villages of Banda district of Bundelkhand, which we had reported about, the district administration distributed 50 kg of rice to every family, put up two hand pumps in the village and even started MGNREGA work.”
Reporting on Politics and Government(PRINT)Ashutosh Bhardwaj, The Indian Express: For his report on the leaked Chhattisgarh tapes that suggested financial foulplay before a bypoll. “There was talk about unfair dealings in the Antagarh bypolls. I chased the clues for over a year until I stumbled upon these audio tapes. Antagarh is a reserved constituency for tribals in Maoist-hit Bastar. The involvement of both the national political parties, the BJP and Congress, in these dealings underline their failure to address tribal unrest. The story was scattered across several players and dates, so it was difficult to thread them together.”
Halimabi Abdul Kureshi, IBN Lokmat: For capturing the impact of the beef ban on society and industry in Maharashtra. “I belong to the Qureshi community. I have seen people who work as butchers as it is their traditional occupation. They had little education but were happy as long as they had money coming their way. When the Maharashtra government passed the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, even bullocks were brought under it. Most of the people in the meat industry, 80 per cent of them people who follow their traditional occupation, were the worst sufferers. People removed children from school. When vehicles carrying animals would be caught, there was sadness and grief. The community believed it could not raise its voice as there were no politicians etc from the community who would take their side. Then, a Qureshi boy committed suicide. After all this, people contacted me as nobody was ready to be their voice. No media house was covering this side of the story. When I was visiting the cattle market, I met a Christian who said there are people who have been eating beef for generations and the ban was a human rights violation. Due to the ban, the leather industry went down, there were families who couldn’t get their girls married. My father, who was the inspiration for this report, passed away, but I started working on the report on the twelfth day after his death. So this report was something emotional also. I felt the other side of the story had to come out. After all, it is about traditional occupations.”
Devendra Pandey, The Indian Express: For his report on irregularities in the IPL. “It was during a casual chat with someone that I first heard about a breach of the code of conduct by franchises of the Indian Premier League. IPL is so glamorous that most people don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes in this shortest and most attractive form of cricket. It was difficult to verify and get confirmation of small details, but I somehow managed to get copies of confidential documents that showed certain irregularities.
Sanjeeb Mukherjea, CNN-IBN: For uncovering IPL spot-fixing tapes involving Rajasthan Royals’ players. “When I joined sports journalism, I never thought I would be covering what is happening outside the stadium rather than the match inside. From 2009-2010, there were a lot of things happening around IPL. In 2013, when the scandal happened, there were a few administrators who were in a hurry to get away from where they were and I got information from my sources in the Mumbai Police and Delhi Police. This is what has changed about sports journalism, that you now have to also deal with the police and the judicial and legal aspects. When I came upon the tapes, I was startled because what had come out in reports until then was not even bits or pieces. It took eight to 10 months to listen to all the tapes, work with the transcripts, and match them with the voice samples and edit. This story was basically about investigating what was wrong with cricket, the most famous sport in India.”
Nayantara Narayanan, Scroll.in: For her reports on the Chennai floods and the aftermath. “The floods took Chennai out but we also found that places outside the city had been very badly affected. So I spoke to my editor and we all got the sense that we should really be looking beyond Chennai, which took me to places such as Kanchipuram and Cuddalore that had been flooded for a month, but from where very little news was coming out.
“One of the stories was on a village in Cuddalore, a Dalit settlement, ignored in whatever relief work was going on. An NGO had alerted us about this village. Within days of the story being published, I got a call from the NGO saying that individuals had come in with relief material and when she asked them how they had heard about the village, they showed the story we had published.”
Aamir Rafiq Peerzada & Rakesh Solanky, NDTV: For extensive reports on the damage caused at the Everest base camp, due to avalanches triggered by the 2015 Nepal earthquake. “I remember being trapped for close to two days due to a heavy avalanche. At the time, at least 16 people were dead and many were injured. All our equipment was destroyed and we had been wearing the same clothes for days. We put together the reports through phone calls to the office,” says Peerzada. Solanky, the videojournalist on the assignment, says, “I had gone to the Everest base camp to film the expedition to the world’s highest peak. However, the earthquake triggered an avalanche, which nearly wiped out the camp, killing 22 people. I kept my camera running throughout the incident, despite getting buried under the snow on several occasions. It is what we do.”
Sandeep Pai & Manisha Pande, Newslaundry.com: For their RTI investigation on how politicians exploit PSUs. “The story was about an RTI investigation into how politicians had been writing to PSUs, seeking favours such as funds for their organisations, for NGOs etc. They usually had their own interests behind such requests. So it was essentially a misuse of public money,” says Pai. “From the replies for the RTIs Sandeep filed, we started picking out names in which there was a direct conflict of interest. After the story, some PSUs issued internal circulars, saying we don’t need to unnecessarily release funds and that we can take a call on this,” says Pande.
(BROADCAST)Ganesh Suratchand Thakur, ABP News: For investigating the alleged abduction and detention of girls by the Sanatan Sanstha. “The investigation, ‘Operation Sammohan’, was based on the allegations of five families. We conducted detailed interviews with them and also visited several Sanatan Sanstha offices to get to the bottom of the truth.”
Shamik Bag, Mint: For his story on the life and death of Malli Mastan Babu. “Malli wasn’t a difficult choice: a man from a humble, nomadic, tribal background, a first generation literate who went on to study at IIT-Kharagpur and IIM-Calcutta, and one who gave up a corporate career for the mountains. I first got to know about Malli from a small report in The Telegraph some years ago. In 2015, his name returned tragically to the papers. After going missing for days at a 22,000-feet Andes peak, Malli returned to his Nellore village in Andhra Pradesh in a coffin. Strapping young, gone at 40. I picked up his trail, travelling back to his childhood village in Nellore, standing at the foot of the small hill that first dented the boy Malli’s imagination. I then travelled to Tirupati, Visakhapatnam and finally to Sikkim’s Yuksom, the base camp of his dream. From that small hill in Andhra Pradesh, Malli went on to climb the seven highest summits in each continent, a pioneering Indian feat.”
Sreedevi T V, Malayala Manorama: For her profile of a 94-year-old nature conservationist. “During one of our evening meetings, our co-ordinating editor asked me to meet a woman who had dug a pond all by herself at Haripad in Alappuzha district. That’s how I met Bhavani Amma at her house where she lived with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Before I started, I asked her how old she was and she said 94. I was dumbstruck. As she spoke about the well she had dug, the trees she had planted and the saplings waiting to be planted, I realised Bhavani Amma was a true Gandhian. Now that I have won this coveted award, I believe it’s she who is being honoured.”
Foreign Correspondent Covering India
Victor Mallet, Financial Times: For his ground report on pollution in the Ganga. “I’m delighted the win this award for two reasons. First, it was for a story about the Ganga and the importance of saving the river from pollution and over-extraction of water. When I was doing my research, I was disappointed to find how little has been achieved in the past three years, even though Narendra Modi had made it a priority when he stood in Varanasi and won the general election in 2014. Second, I found The Indian Express to be by far the best of India’s English-language newspapers during my four years based in Delhi covering South Asia.”
Commentary and Interpretative WritingAnna M M Vetticad, BLink: For her piece on the stereotypical portrayal of women professionals in TV and films. “The July 2015 instalment of Film Fatale, my column in The Business Line’s BLink, under the headline, ‘The Rape of Avanthika’, was about the misogyny and romanticised sexual violence in the Telugu blockbuster Bahubali. Despite furious fan responses, it was gratifying to see the piece play a part in at least marginally steering discussions away from the movie marketing hype and towards its illiberal content. This is the goal of Film Fatale, which was conceived as a commentary on the intersection of cinema, politics and society. In 2015, the column also covered the ageism actresses face worldwide, the representation of marginalised communities in Indian cinema and other concerns. This award for the collection of Film Fatales I wrote last year is a validation of my conviction that all cinema is political and even seemingly mindless.”
Pramit Bhattacharya, Mint: For story that exposed how micro-finance may not always be as inclusive as is perceived. “I started the Economics Express column a little over two years ago in an attempt to look at issues of everyday life, as well as public policy. The idea was to use the lens of economics and borrow insights from the world of academic research to help shed light on some of these issues. From cows to riots to marriage to micro-finance to climate change, the column has attempted to examine each issue fairly and rigorously by considering the relevant published research on each topic. The Economics Express column written in June 2015 — after the micro-finance industry saw a sharp recovery in fiscal 2015 — tried to bust the myth that micro-finance was a powerful antidote to poverty.
Another column, written earlier that year, explained how economic considerations, rather than religious ones, influenced people’s decision to purchase cows in India, and featured both contemporary and historical debates on the role of religion and economics in influencing such investments.”
Prakash Kardaley Memorial Award for Civic Journalism
Christin Mathew Philip, The Times of India: For his reports on the use of substandard construction material in building roads in Chennai. “I have been reporting on the conditions of roads for the past five years. Following this story, however, the Madras High Court took suo motu cognizance, and quality checks were conducted on the roads which I reported about. Some of the roads were reconstructed. It is nice to see regional stories being rewarded.”
Burhaan Kinu, The Hindustan Times: “It was September 29, 2015. At around 10.30 that Tuesday morning, my phone was filled with messages about the lynching of a man in Bisada village in Dadri, UP, on suspicion that he had stored beef in his refrigerator. When I reached Akhlaq’s house, I could see the zblood-stained wall and a broken sewing machine. The refrigerator had also been broken. His relatives were preparing his body for burial, I could hear the family wailing. It was difficult to stand there with my camera, but as a journalist, I knew I had to present an unbiased report so I continued to document the grief, loss and pain.”