The RNG storieshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/ramnath-goenka-awards-journalsim-rng-5535770/

The RNG stories

Ramnath Goenka awards: A celebration of India’s finest journalism of 2017.

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RNG award winners. (Express photo: Neeraj Priyadarshi)

From inside an NSCN (I-M) camp to the cricket fields of Moga, from a Meghalaya Raj Bhavan scandal to illegal sand mining along the coastline of Tuticorin, from the workings of the Capital’s power corridors to its most helpless residents cleaning and dying in its sewers, from the anger of Kashmir to the despair of Eastern UP — a celebration of India’s finest journalism of 2017

Reporting from J&K and the North East

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Namrata Biji Ahuja: The Week

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For her dispatch from inside Camp Hebron where NSCN (I-M) runs a parallel government

“Being born in an Army family, it was my natural instinct to visit Camp Hebron. I witnessed the parallel government run by the NSCN (I-M) with the help of its 15,000 soldiers. I have been covering the Union Home Ministry for the past 10 years. After the Naga peace accord was signed in 2015, many wondered how the treaty would be effective. To find answers, I spent a week at the girl’s hostel in the NSCN (I-M) camp.”

Rikynti Marwein: Highland Post

For being the first to uncover the molestation scandal against the Meghalaya Governor

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“Following the birth of my child in 2015, I began searching for a more stable job because journalism is not an easy profession to be in. In 2016, I received an interview call from the Meghalaya Governor’s House for the position of a PRO. That is when I met the victim for the first time. All newspapers, which were supposed to publish the story, pulled out. However, the morning the story was published, I felt relaxed. I knew I had done the right thing. But I never imagined that the story would compel the Governor to resign.”

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Zaffar Iqbal: NDTV India

For reporting on radicalisation and stone-pelters in South Kashmir

“Being a Kashmiri, I always felt the need for discussions on radicalisation in the Valley. I wanted to raise questions about its extent, an issue that has for long been a part of the national discourse. Kashmiris have a different view on radicalisation and its effect on youth when compared to people from other parts of the country. I wanted to focus on different layers of this social problem.”

Hindi Print

Amit Kumar Singh: The Wire

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For his story on the lives of policemen in Kashmir; their challenges and hopes, threats and fears

“It was the death of a policeman killed in a stone-pelting incident in Kashmir that prompted me to dig deeper into the problem. There are many narratives regarding violence in the Valley. But little has been written from the perspective of a policeman. I felt the need to put that out in the public domain. Finally, when I visited Kashmir, I was faced with another challenge — trust. It took me some time, but after I succeeded in establishing a relationship of trust with them, they began opening up to me.”

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Abhisar Sharma: ABP News

For driving home the horror of encephalitis in East UP

“What compelled me to visit eastern Uttar Pradesh was a picture of an ill infant on his mother’s shoulder. It was a very strong image and I decided to do a visual blog on encephalitis. We only hear of children dying in eastern Uttar Pradesh, but I wanted to focus on those kids who manage to survive after inheriting the disease. The aim was to go beyond the news — the deaths in BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur — and see how the disease was affecting the population.”

Regional Languages: Print

Sandeep Ashok Acharya & Nishant Dattaram Sarwankar: Loksatta

For their expose on the irregularities and corruption that have plagued Mumbai’s Slum Rehabilitation Authority

“We have been covering the housing and real estate beat — the most pressing issue in Mumbai — for a long time. We received a tip-off that 450 redevelopment project files had been cleared by Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) chief Vishwas Patil five days prior to his retirement. Such files normally take months to be cleared by the authorities. Both of us knew that the information was credible. But the bigger challenge was taking the story forward. Each and every file was looked into and systematically analysed. The most significant outcome of the 12-part series was that the SRA was compelled to do away with manual handling of files,” said Sarwankar.

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M Gunasekaran: News 18 Tamil Nadu

For his reports on fisherfolk during Cyclone Ockhi

“I have been reporting on the problems faced by marginalised communities for the last two decades. During Cyclone Ockhi, nearly 3,000 fishermen were stranded mid-sea, off the coast of Kanyakumari. Their families were angry because the administration did not undertake rescue efforts on a war footing. My discussions with family members were aired continuously to highlight their plight. Those who live far away from the coastline do not understand the problems faced by fishermen. That is why I tracked every development in this case and also documented the voices of those who finally managed to return home.”

UNCOVERING INDIA INVISIBLE

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Parth Meena Nikhil: Ruralindiaonline.org

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For reports on how agrarian distress impacts everyday life in rural India

“I wrote a series of stories on the agrarian crisis in Marathwada while I was pursuing a fellowship with the People’s Archive of Rural India. I travelled to the region to document how lives of farmers change with every season and the challenges they face. I also wanted to explore the hardships farmers have to face to procure even the simplest resources. My intention was to broaden the discussion on the agrarian distress in Maharashtra.”

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Pratima Mishra: ABP News

For reporting on caste discrimination against Dalits in Gujarat

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“I travelled extensively through Gujarat to the cover the 2017 Assembly elections. I was drinking tea and chatting with locals at a road-side shop when the conversation veered towards the role caste plays in influencing elections. The discussion then moved to caste-based discrimination. That is when I came to know about Mehsana village, where people from lower castes are still not allowed to draw water from wells. As a reporter, I always try to focus on social problems. Even when I’m pursuing a political story, I try not to lose sight of the caste dynamics in it.”

BUSINESS & ECONOMIC JOURNALISM

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Team Reuters and Thomson Reuters

For a series of reports on a secret operation inside a tobacco giant’s campaign to subvert the global anti-smoking treaty

“It took us a while to obtain documents about Phillip Morris that highlighted the actions taken by the tobacco giant to undermine a global anti-smoking treaty. While journalists from over 14 countries helped us in procuring these documents, a core team of six people prepared the narrative. The investigation was a challenge right from the beginning. After the story was published, authorities took cognisance of the alleged violation. The idea was to make people aware of what was happening,” said Aditya Kalra, part of the six-member team at Thomson Reuters.

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Sushil Kumar Mohapatra: NDTV India

For documenting the impact of GST on ragpickers

“While I was covering the drug problem afflicting children in Seemapuri, ragpickers started discussing and complaining about the ill-effects of GST on their livelihood. I was taken aback as they don’t pay GST. I started researching the issue. The ragpickers, who collect recyclable plastic, newspapers and other similar waste items from our homes and sell it to middlemen or contractors, were receiving less money after GST was implemented. The government had put recycled products in the 18 per cent tax slab. After the story was published, the tax was reduced to 5 per cent.”

Political Reporting: Print

Sushant Singh: The Indian Express

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For his inside reports on strategic affairs, including the Doklam crisis and a secret meeting between India and Pakistan
“I report primarily on national security and strategic affairs. I covered the 2017 Doklam stand-off between India and China at great length, bringing to the fore the secret meetings between the security agencies of both the countries in Bangkok. It was a story The Indian Express broke and the report also focused on issues that led to the stand-off.”

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Brajesh Rajput: ABP News

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For reporting on the use of sub-standard material in a government housing scheme in Madhya Pradesh

“The aim of the story was to unearth loopholes in government policies. The then BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government was in power for 15 years and corruption was rampant. The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana was garnering a lot of praise for the remarkable speed in which houses were being built. In Madhya Pradesh’s Bichhiya tehsil, there were houses which had been ‘completed’ and their ‘finished photos’ uploaded on the website. But in reality, they were half done. Only one house was complete and its photos were published. The story was important because we keep hearing praises about governments and their policies, but rarely does the actual groundwork match up.”

SPORTS JOURNALISM

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Nitin Sharma & Daksh Panwar: The Indian Express

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For tracking the dreams of women cricketers in Punjab’s Moga

“The story took birth following the success of Harmanpreet Kaur — the woman cricketer whose performance in the 2017 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in England helped India reach the finals. We decided to visit her village in Moga (Punjab) to see if people were aware of her success and stardom. When we visited nearby Rode village, we were surprised to see several Dalit girls taking up the male-dominated game in a society which is extremely patriarchal. Moga, infamous for incidents of molestation and assaults, is now known as the home of Harmanpreet Kaur. It was heartening to see young girls travelling to Chandigarh on their own, with their cricket kits, to learn the game and excel in it,” says Panwar.

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Moumita Sen: India Today TV

For exploring the question of violence in the Valley through the lens of football

“Arif, one of the case studies for my story, had been in the news for his attempt to raise funds for his skiing practice sessions. I decided to head to Kashmir to see how sports could be used to channel Kashmiri youths in different directions. For those who live in the mainland, the narrative about youths in the Valley revolves around stone-pelting and pellet guns. Many Kashmiri children are fantastic artists and have represented India in various international competitions. The aim was to address the dichotomy of being a Kashmiri, the state fighting for an independent identity, as well as representing India on the global stage.”

On-the-spot reporting

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Mridula Chari: Scroll.in

For exposing how a sedition case against 15 men accused of celebrating a Pakistan win in cricket fell apart

“It all happened on a Sunday (June 18, 2017), when India lost to Pakistan by 180 runs in the finals of the ICC Champion’s Trophy. Over the next two days, there were reports that sedition cases had been filed against some Muslims in Burhanpur district’s Mohad village after they celebrated Pakistan’s victory. I took a train from Mumbai and reached Burhanpur on Friday morning. Speaking to villagers, I found that the accused had little in common. There was a tailor who wanted to pursue a B.Ed course and a daily wage earner who worked in banana fields. I visited three Muslim bastis in the village and found that the accused were not even aware of the match result. I went to the police station and spoke to officer Sanjay Pathak, who seemed uncomfortable with my questions. Pathak was transferred after the stories were published.”

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Jagwinder Patial: ABP News

For his reporting on the violence following the arrest of the Dera Sacha Sauda head

“Covering the arrest of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was tough because of the ensuing mob violence. I had a feeling that the law and order situation in Sirsa, Haryana, would worsen. Hence, I arrived at the spot a day in advance. When the violence broke out, I told myself that I cannot leave come what may. Having faced similar situations earlier, I managed to manoeuvre my way through burning vans to capture real-time footage.”

Investigative reporting

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Vijay Kumar S: The Hindu

For his reports on how taxmen alerted officials about payoffs in the Tamil Nadu gutka scam — but were ignored

“In late 2016, a source informed me that the Tamil Nadu government was in possession of a report that could indict a state minister and some IPS officers on corruption charges. The report was submitted to the government by the Income Tax Department after it found that a major gutka manufacturer had paid Rs 39.9 crore to senior functionaries in the state administration to ensure manufacture, sale and storage of gutka, which is banned in the state. After the initial story was published in June 2017, the matter was dragged to court. The Chief Secretary informed the court that there was no such report. I wrote a story detailing when the report was submitted and to whom. Our job was to tell the truth.”

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Anand Kumar Patel: India Today TV

For reporting on the problem of over-priced drugs

I spent three months obtaining documents from sources that revealed a sinister nexus between hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. The aim was to expose the arbitrary overpricing of essential drugs. These documents proved that hospitals sent low price quotations to pharma companies, and later, sold the medicines at a premium of 900 per cent. Patients across the country were being cheated. After the story was published, prices of many essential medicines were capped by drug pricing regulators.

Environmental Reporting

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Sandhya Ravishankar: The Wire

For her investigative reports on illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu

I have been working on the story since 2013. It was during this time that Durga Shakti Nagpal, an IAS officer in Uttar Pradesh, clamped down on sand mafia in Greater Noida. Nagpal was suspended and later transferred. I was then employed with a news channel and we were looking for similar narratives. I received information from a source that then Tuticorin Collector, Ashish Kumar, was going to clamp down on illegal sand mining in his district. Within eight hours of the raid, he was transferred. I visited Tamil Nadu and interviewed Kumar, and also travelled for about eight days along the coastline from Tuticorin to Kanyakumari. I realised that the story was much bigger than what it was thought to be. The government banned beach sand mining and constituted a committee to look into the allegations.

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Sushil Chandra Bahuguna: NDTV India

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For documenting the lives submerged due to the Pancheshwar dam in Uttarakhand

“I closely followed the project for three years — all the rules and regulations which were flouted to build the dam. I believe that a project of such scale should not have been carried out in a sensitive location. If local people are completely against it, whose ego is it meant to satisfy? All across the world, people are scrapping big dam projects.”

FEATURE WRITING

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Dipankar Ghose: The Indian Express 

For his ground report on how victims of rape deep inside Bastar are struggling to make themselves heard

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“In October 2015, security forces allegedly assaulted and raped 16 tribal women across three villages in Chhattisgarh. I wrote many stories about the incident. The National Human Rights Commission took cognisance of the stories and in January 2017 held that the claims of the victims appeared to be true. I travelled to the villages, deep in the heartland, to document the struggles of victims who were in the midst of legal battles. A visit to the court is not only a struggle for the victims but also a loss of a day’s income. The aim was to lend a voice to those who remain unheard.”

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT COVERING INDIA

Annie Gowen: The Washington Post 

For her report on the life of a teenage pellet victim, a cricketer, in Kashmir

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“Following the death of Burhan Wani in 2016, there were widespread protests in Kashmir. Our aim was to follow one of the victims of the violence as he or she navigates through the recovery process. We came to know about a village in Pulwama where about a dozen young men were blinded by pellets — they became the central theme of our story. During the year-long effort, my team often faced tough questions from the police and even survived a militant grenade attack while on the ground. We were also supported by local journalists and villagers welcomed us warmly. They were unflappable in the face of the problem.”

COMMENTARY AND INTERPRETATIVE WRITING

Gulab Kothari: Rajasthan Patrika 

For his editorials against attempts in Rajasthan to silence the media, and to clip the powers of the judiciary and police

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“My only dharma is to protect democracy. In 2017, the Rajasthan government tabled a Bill preventing journalists from reporting accusations against public servants without the state government sanctioning a probe into the charge. It was a dangerous proposition. What would be left of democracy then? As media-persons, we are the bridge between the government and the people. Rajasthan Patrika not only opposed the Bill but also threatened to stop reporting all news about the state government. This compelled the government to withdraw the Bill in the next session of the Assembly.”

Civic journalism

Shalini Nair: The Indian Express 

For exposing glaring gaps in the urban development mission

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“I did a series of stories on two urban developments mission of the Union government — the Smart Cities Mission and the Swachh Bharat Mission. In the former, I pointed out that about 80 per cent of the funds were invested in 2 per cent of the areas covered under the Smart Cities Mission, resulting in gentrification of already well-developed urban regions. After the stories were published, there was furore, and the opposition termed it an ‘Unsmart scam’. With regards to the Swachh Bharat Mission, the aim was to shed light on the policy blindness towards the practice of manual scavenging — how the mission was completely blind towards the human cost. While several ministries framed policies to tackle the issue, the NITI Aayog commissioned an unprecedented count of manual scavengers across the country.”

Photo journalism

Tashi Tobgyal: The Indian Express

For his images documenting the life and death of those who keep our cities clean — manual scavengers and sewage workers

“The aim was to document the lives of manual scavengers and sewage workers and bring to the fore the extreme conditions they worked and lived in. With a fellow reporter, I went out looking for manual scavengers in Delhi. But due to a spate of deaths, manual scavenging was suspended at that time. Through a source we found a contractor, who asked us to come down to Raj Nagar in Ghaziabad. We went there at 4 in the morning. Such jobs are carried out between 4 am and 7 am, as no one wants to wake up in the morning to dirty surroundings. During this time, the Swachh Bharat Mission was at its peak. The story also focused on Dalits, who end up doing this work.”

BOOKS (NON-FICTION)

Milan Vaishnav

For his study of the symbiotic relationship between crime and Indian politics, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics

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“In 2008, when the UPA government released six parliamentarians facing criminal charges to vote in a no-confidence motion, I was struck by the image of Indian politicians doubling as notorious lawmakers. It was this event that sparked my interest to write When Crime Pays. I wanted to examine the space that exists in India for criminal politicians. The idea was to provide an explanation about the criminal-politician nexus. After the Supreme Court mandated in 2003 that politicians must record all their criminal antecedents at the time of nomination, I faced a vast challenge of compiling the mammoth data. During this process, I interacted with many journalists and politicians and that enriched the narrative of the book. I hope the book is able to initiate a dialogue on the nexus between criminals and politicians.”

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