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Stories on upkeep of dams, mines winners in Regional category

Ramnath Goenka Awards 2019: Aniket Vasant Sathe of Loksatta is the winner in the Regional Media (Print) category while Sunil Baby of Media One TV is the winner of the Regional Media (Broadcast) category.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
December 25, 2021 4:20:53 am
Sunil Baby (L), Aniket Vasant Sathe (R)

Some of the most impactful entries for the 2019 Ramnath Goenka Awards came from regional media that focused on how official apathy had cost human lives.

Aniket Vasant Sathe of Loksatta is the winner in the Regional Media (Print) category while Sunil Baby of Media One TV is the winner of the Regional Media (Broadcast) category.

In a series of stories, Sathe exposed the poor conditions of the major dams across Maharashtra and how their neglect was one of the reasons that led to large-scale destruction across cities during the floods of 2019. His series of articles offered deep insight into the systemic neglect, legislative apathy and administrative failure that impacted lakhs of people living around dams.

Maharashtra has the highest number of dams in the country and 296 of them were in need of urgent repair. A big challenge faced by Sathe was to gather information from various government bodies and thoroughly understand the technicality involved in dam engineering. “There are more than 1,300 dams in Maharashtra that are taller than 10 metres. I had to collect information on each of these dams and study audit reports, which are released periodically,” he said.

The Maharashtra Government ultimately took note and approved 10 per cent of the budgetary provision on water repairs for dam safety. After reviewing the equipment required, repair and replacement work started on a war footing.

Through his story, The Burning Mines, Baby, the winner in the Broadcast category, explored the phenomenon of subterranean fire in Jharia, Jharkhand, which was first reported more than a century ago. Over the years, the scale of the problem has grown, fuelled by unscrupulous practices. Baby tracked the story of deaths caused by people falling into the trenches that suddenly open up in the scorched earth, or by inhaling toxic emissions. The survivors live in fear of explosions given that steam and smoke rise from the floor of their houses.

These mines are owned by Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) and Baby’s story exposed how the public sector company had failed to ensure a safe environment for the people of Dhanbad.

“I had to stay for three days in Jharia and do three stories. The place was hell on Earth; the land and air both were on fire,” said Baby.

The reporter further exposed how privatisation of mines had aggravated the underground fire. The story stood out because it highlighted the plight of the poorest of the poor in a land rich in natural resources over which they had no right.

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