1. RNG Awards: The prize reporters

RNG Awards: The prize reporters

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

By: | Published: November 6, 2016 6:12 AM
Winners of the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism awards, 2015, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Winners of the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism awards, 2015, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Reporting on Politics and Government

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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.”

BROADCAST

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.”

Sports Journalism

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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.

BROADCAST

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.”

On-the-spot Reporting

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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.”

BROADCAST

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.”

Investigative Reporting PRINT

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.”

Feature Writing

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 Writing

Anna 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

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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.”

Photo Journalism

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 blood-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.”

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