The Indian Express Special Correspondent Dipankar Ghose has won the Prem Bhatia Award for political reporting for his work on issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the migrant labour crisis.
While Ghose won the award for the category of reporting on political issues, the award for reporting on environmental and development issues was given to the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), a journalism website dedicated to reporting on rural India.
The Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust, which confers the awards for outstanding journalism, said in a press release that Ghose has been awarded “for his coverage of the migrant labour crisis and other Covid-19 related issues”.
Apart from reporting on the issue of migrant labour walking back hundreds of kilometres to their home towns during the lockdown, Ghose also reported a series of stories from Bhagalpur in Bihar for over a month starting mid-June to understand the effects of the pandemic and the lockdown in small-town India.
On July 6, Ghose reported about the children of Musahari tola, a Mahadalit colony in Badbilla village, who had turned to rag-picking and begging after the mid-day meal scheme, which guaranteed one stable meal a day, came to a halt as schools were closed.
Taking note of the report within hours of it being published, the Bihar government issued an order to provide rations as well as money through Direct Benefit Transfer to all school children across the state for 80 working days from May to July.
The Patna High Court and the National Human Rights Commission also took suo motu cognizance of the report.
While the court directed the state government to ensure that no child is “pushed into or indulges in any activity of rag picking or beggary, more so on the account of lack of food”, the NHRC issued notices to the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development and Bihar’s chief secretary and mentioned that it was a “serious issue of violation of human rights”, demanding a reply within four weeks.
The Prem Bhatia Award to PARI “collectively for its army of field reporters, volunteers and its dedicated team which sifts and publishes data”, the press release said, is “for its extensive field reports, including climate change effects and the impact of the pandemic on rural India”. PARI’s founder editor P Sainath has also won the award earlier.
The trust had instituted the awards in 1995 in the memory of journalist Prem Bhatia, who died that year. “The main objective of the Trust is to propagate the values that Prem Bhatia stood for: objective reporting, fearless pursuit of the truth and a commitment to improving the standards of journalism in India,” the release said.
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