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RNG Awards: Stories on marginalisation win Uncovering India Invisible category

In the Uncovering India Invisible category, Shiv Sahay Singh of The Hindu is the winner from print media, while Tridip K Mandal of The Quint, is the broadcast media winner.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
December 27, 2021 4:48:33 am
Shiv Sahay Singh and Tridip K Mandal

Government policies are meant to help citizens, not victimise them. But as the Ramnath Goenka Award winners have shown, seemingly corrective and empowering measures not only ended up marginalising the poor, they made their suffering invisible.

In the Uncovering India Invisible category, Shiv Sahay Singh of The Hindu is the winner from print media, while Tridip K Mandal of The Quint, is the broadcast media winner.

Singh’s story, ‘Death by Digital Exclusion’, exposed how the Jharkhand government’s insistence on digitisation deprived people living on the margins of the benefits of the public distribution system (PDS).

In an attempt to plug leakages in the PDS, the state government had decided that all ration cards should be linked to Aadhaar. Beneficiaries, who could not link their ration card with Aadhaar or had no Aadhaar cards, were denied ration. This led to major distress among tribal communities. While there were reports of deaths due to malnutrition, the state government not only denied them, it also did not attempt to bring the families that had alleged malnutrition deaths into the PDS.

“I did not know the terrain of Jharkhand, which was both an advantage and a disadvantage. But I could look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes. Getting the marginalised people to talk was a challenge,” said Singh.

The story involved detailed fieldwork, visits to several districts where the denial of PDS benefits came to the fore and tallying versions from both right-to-food activists and the state government.

Mandal’s story, ‘Diaries From The Detention Camps Of Assam’, tracked the plight of those who had wrongly been confined in detention camps for years on the assumption that they were illegal immigrants. The story was shot in September 2019, soon after the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was announced. It had left out more than 19 lakh people who had till then been citizens based on their earlier documents. Mandal met Ravi Dey, who was released after four years but lost his hearing ability. Aatab Ali and Habibur Rehman had done their time in the detention camp but could not walk free because their families were too poor to arrange the basic guarantees for their release.

The third story was of 10-year-old Sawata Dey, whose father Subrata Dey, died in a detention camp two months after he was picked up in 2018 for a name mismatch in his voter ID card. Sawata refused to see the body, and her story struck a chord with the audience across the world. They reached out to The Quint and contributions for her poured in. Sawata has since joined a new school, and resumed her dance classes.

“The biggest challenge for me was to find stories that belong to both communities, Muslims and Hindus. The general narrative is that it is just Muslims in detention camps but that is not the case. Another challenge was finding the detention camps. The government has been denying they exist, so it was difficult to find them,” Mandal said.

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