At the eighth edition of the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, 57 journalists were honoured for doing what they do best—telling stories.
At the eighth edition of the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, 57 journalists were honoured for doing what they do best—telling stories.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
In the 40th year of Emergency, The Ramnath Goenka Foundation has honoured Kuldip Nayar, the man who symbolised journalism’s fight against the Emergency; who, as Editor, Express News Service, was put in jail under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act for leading a protest against the Emergency. Nayar, who has also worked with The Statesman, wrote a popular syndicated column, ‘Between the Lines’, and authored several books, including The Judgement and Beyond the Lines. His journalism career has spanned over five decades.
“My most memorable story was the scoop on when the Emergency will be called off, and how fresh elections will be held. This was in January 1976 — at first people didn’t believe me. The news came as a great surprise to people,” he says. Nayar’s “toughest” assignment was when he went to Pakistan in the late ‘60s to interview General Ayub Khan. “India-Pak relations weren’t great and I was discouraged but I went anyway,” he says.
He thinks today’s media “lacks depth in reporting”. They don’t work on stories that can trouble us,” he says.
His advice to young journalists: “Read a lot—books, magazines and newspapers. Be knowledgeable of the topic you write about. Also, write a lot.”
PRAKASH KARDALEY MEMORIAL AWARD FOR CIVIC JOURNALISM
For documenting the lives of children in tribal villages of Kerala who dropped out of school to support their families.
“I read a story in a local newspaper about a tribal boy who couldn’t hear and speak and did not go to school. When I went to his village, I found other boys who had dropped out of school to support their parents. They would collect firewood, honey and fruits from the forest in the area. After the story, the tribal affairs ministry ordered an inquiry and within eight days, the students were back in school.”
Radheshyam Bapu Jadhav
The Times of India
For his report on illegal buildings in Pune and residents’ fear amid political apathy.
“In the last five years, 45 people had died in building collapses in Pune. After a building had collapsed in November, we launched an investigation and found most such buildings were illegally constructed and sold to lower middle-class people. We posed as buyers and met government officials, who said illegal buildings won’t be demolished.”
UNCOVERING INDIA INVISIBLE
Jeejo John Puthezhath/ Mahesh Gupthan/ Santhosh John Thooval
For a series on the lives of migrant workers in Kerala
“Kochi has over 10 lakh migrant labourers, and as a legal correspondent, I came across many cases where they were falsely implicated as they had no legal aid. Besides, locals had genuine grievances against migrants. We looked at the issue from both sides. The number of FIRs against migrant labourers came down substantially after the story came out,” says Puthezhath.
For telling the story of how Bharat meets India, in fields such as education, solar power, sports medals, and mobile phones.
“As a media house covering Maharashtra and Goa, we are in close connect with villages. A revolution is taking place there, as smart phones become cheaper and communication more accessible. We found that as you go deeper, the aspiration quotient rises,” says Aparna Velankar, one of the reporters on the team.
For his expose on the complicity of politicians in creating the water crisis in Maharashtra
“Even as Maharashtra was facing a drought, water-guzzling sugarcane was being promoted aggressively. With the help of stringers and NGOs, we exposed how water for farmers and dams was diverted to sugar units, uncovering the involvement of the hand of the ruling party.”
For her report on migrant workers from Odisha working in Andhra Pradesh.
“We tracked migrant workers who come every year for several months from Odisha to Andhra Pradesh, literally as bonded labourers. We found their children working and living in horrific conditions, with no access to education or healthcare. After our reports were aired, the Supreme Court issued notices to secretaries of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.”
Rahul Kotiyal and Atul Chaurasiya
For their story on BJP leader Varun Gandhi’s alleged subversion of the law to clear his name in a hate speech case.
“In 2013, a Pilibhit court had acquitted Varun Gandhi in three cases of alleged hate speech he had made in 2009. Through talking to 40-50 witnesses, who had turned hostile, and others involved in the cases, we found that some witnesses were harassed by the police while others were directly threatened by Varun Gandhi,” says Chaurasiya. Adds Kotiyal: “Through our sting-ops, we found that Gandhi, a BJP MP from Pilibhit, was supporting the SP candidate in the state elections, so that he wins and helps Gandhi in settling these cases.”
For his story on the plight of ex-militants of Kashmir who returned from Pakistan.
“In the ‘90s, many Kashmiri youth had gone to Pakistan for arms training. In 2010, the government started a rehab programme for those who returned. Most were now married and middle-aged, and did not have visas. When they returned, their parents did not recognise them. My biggest challenge was to get them to talk. They thought I was from the IB or R&AW.”
For his interview of the friend of the December 16, 2012, gangrape victim.
“The interview helped connect the dots and get the details of the incident, about which there was not much clarity till then.”
Sharik Rehman Khan
For his report on ‘love jihad’ in UP.
“When the BJP had raised the ‘love jihad’ issue in UP, inter-religious couples began receiving death threats from activists. I spoke to such couples and BJP leaders, and talked to Hindu school girls being brainwashed about love jihad.”
For his report on diseased cattle being brought to Kerala from other states.
“I posed as a cow merchant and travelled from Tamil Nadu to Kerala for the story. Kerala has many slaughterhouses on paper but the actual number is in single digits. The mafia still controls all the trade.”
Aniket Vasant Sathe
For his series on the armed forces—from what ails Sukhoi fighters to use of modern surveillance equipment to track Naxals.
“At the Nasik Army Aviation School, I met the wife of a pilot who had formed a group and signed a petition against outdated helicopters that had claimed lives of many officers. Each time a life was lost, the government would blame it on human error, instead of technical snags.”
For his story on Karnataka Hutti Gold Mines releasing poisonous water into nearby lands, forcing the CM to act.
“The company used cyanide liquid in production of gold, and later disposed the cyanide waste in dumping yards. This waste infiltrated into the lands of farmers, making them uncultivable. The company bought the lands and promised jobs/compensation to the farmers. My case study of four families revealed how none of the promises were fulfiled. This later led to the government of Karnataka taking charge of the land and giving jobs to those affected.”
For his series on the M-Sand lobby in Kerala and its effect on the state’s rivers, leading to government action.
“Since the last few decades, river sand mining has been at its worst in Kerala. As the government took action against sand mining, a quarry mafia came up and the use of Manufactured Sand (M Sand) grew. A paper-cutting drew my attention to people living near the manufacturing units, who felt itchiness on their skin and a metallic taste in their water. After my report, the state government sealed the mining units.”
Anu Singh Choudhary
For her story about the cricket aspirations of a group of schoolgirls in a Naxal-affected village in Jharkhand.
“I was in the village for a feature on how residential schools are coping with few resources, faced problems of child-trafficking and was Naxal affected. I met a group of schoolgirls who were learning to play cricket though they had no sports facilities. I stayed in a school hostel for around two weeks to understand how the girls lived and learned to play cricket.”
For his story on how N Srinivasan became cricket’s biggest hitter.
“My approach was to tell the story of a man’s (N Srinivasan) past to frame his present, and understand how he had come to be where he was. The investigation lasted four-and-a-half months, during which I faced a hostile Srinivasan. But I wanted to tell the story of an interesting, intriguing man, and that was what I kept repeating to myself, when things got tough.”
Vinayak Deepak Gaikwad
For a show on the journey, triumphs, losses and struggles of Khashaba Jadhav, the first Indian to win an Olympic medal.
“I had a chance meeting with Khashaba Jadhav’s son who told me how the government had ignored the late wrestler’s achievements. It was then that I decided to tell his story. I went to his village in Maharashtra’s Satara district, tracked down his childhood friends, his contemporaries, and spoke to his family. Since there was no audio-visual available, no records or documents, I had to recreate everything.”
For a documentary on a football academy in a Delhi slum, shot before the World Cup.
“Through a friend, I got to know about a slum cluster in Vikaspuri, where one Sylvester Peter was counselling children, who were once rag-pickers and beggars, and turning them into football players. He taught them football and enrolled them in MCD schools, offering free mid-day meals. I wanted to show how one man was helping the children of domestic helps and rickshaw pullers live their dreams.”
REPORTING FROM J&K AND
For his story on the new crop of young, educated, tech-savvy militants in Kashmir.
“I did the story when I heard that educated Kashmiri youth were taking to militancy. I talked to the families of the militants and security personnel. I put the issue in perspective, in the light of the then political developments in Kashmir.”
The Indian Express
For her detailed ground reports, including the one on Manipur girls rescued from a Jaipur home and of a gangrape in a remote Meghalaya town.
“The gangrape, which happened in Williamnagar three days before the Delhi-gangrape incident, was not highlighted much by the media. Even locally, the incident was not given importance, as one of the accused was the nephew of a state minister. I met the victim and the NGO activist who was assisting her. I also interviewed the local authorities for this story.”
The Indian Express
For her story on Irom Sharmila, capturing the life the activist lost and the memories that sustained her through her fight against AFSPA.
“The media has always portrayed Irom Sharmila as the Iron Lady of Manipur, never highlighting her as an individual. Through my report, I showed why someone who never suffered a personal loss due to AFSPA chose to take a stand on it. I met her several times, and talked to her brother and mother.”
For her series from the LoC, including on the Keran encounter.
“The area we were reporting from was remote, needed a daily trek from Srinagar and back, phone connections didn’t work and information about the encounter was available only in dribs and drabs because of the sensitive nature of the operation — the longest anti-infiltration exercise spanning several days.”
For her coverage of the 2014 floods in Srinagar, bringing the victims’ plight to the attention of authorities.
“I was in Srinagar for five-six days in September 2014, and all I did was walk because there was no petrol. People guided me to areas where no help had reached. People had no food or water. We hitched rides on boats and whatever other means of transport to get to these places. When the segment was aired, a lot of help reached the people.”
For his series on the conservation efforts in Nagaland and how villagers struggled to maintain a ban on hunting Amur falcons.
“The mass killing of Amur falcons in Nagaland led to a 10% decline in their population. I contacted local communities to enquire about places, where they knew the killings occurred. At the end of a year-long conservation effort, the number of killings had reduced incredibly.”
For her story on how the new Andhra Pradesh capital will destroy farming in Guntur, the state’s most fertile region.
“When Chandrababu Naidu announced that he was going set up the new state capital, I thought it was important to understand how much land he was asking for. It lies in the rice basin of the south. After the story, there were protests in the region. Now at least the government is not forcibly taking land from the farmers.”
V C Venkatapathi Raju
For his report on deep sea oil rigging by corporate giants causing destruction of mangrove forests on Andhra’s eastern coast.
“The oil companies had removed the sand from the river for laying pipelines. I got to know from reliable sources that the companies were violating forest laws in the area. I faced problems with the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation private security services, as the area was under the company. I took a boat with two fishermen and with their help, reported about the illegal pipelines in the area and how the removal of sand had destroyed mangrove forests.”
Sushil Chandra Bahuguna
For his documentary on artificial glaciers, a system of water harvesting in Ladakh.
“While making a documentary on Phuktse glacier, which is the primary source of water for Leh but is receding, I came across the concept of artificial glaciers. I met Mr Sonam Wangchuk who successfully experimented with creating artificial glaciers. More artificial glaciers are being created along the bank of River Indus, and crowd funding has increased.”
BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC JOURNALISM
For her story on the skilling crisis in India, the gap between the supply of less-formally educated youth and the demand of various industries.
“While I was doing the story, I realised that the 17 ministries tasked with skill development were engaged in a power struggle and thus could not meet their targets. I found out that even if people were enrolled for vocational skills training programme, most wanted jobs in the IT sector, as they did not attach monetary value to a toilet cleaner’s job.”
For his reports showing how the interests of ONGC were sacrificed to lure private players
“What triggered the idea was a random meeting with a lawyer who told me that ONGC was in trouble and may go the Air India way. The biggest challenge was just understanding how the oil industry works. Then there was the issue of making bureaucrats talk. But I realised that if you ask the right questions, everyone talks”.
Praveen Ganeshrao Mudholkar
For his expose on the Ponzi schemes run by the Wasankar and Shreesurya groups in Nagpur.
“More than 15,000 people had invested their hard-earned money in these companies, lured by promises of attractive returns on their deposits. The matter is now in court and the investors are living in hope.”
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT COVERING INDIA
For his comprehensive profile of and much-quoted interview with Narendra Modi, a few months before he was anointed BJP PM candidate.
In the hour-long interview, Modi gave some of his most controversial quotes such as the “puppy” remark when asked about whether he regrets the 2002 Gujarat violence, and his affirmation that he is a “Hindu nationalist”.
For her series on asbestos, largely banned in the developed world but is pushed in India and encouraged among the poor.
“Once I learned that India was the world’s top asbestos importer, I spent over a year visiting villages and abandoned asbestos mines, mucking knee-deep through muddy fields to take soil samples for lab testing, speaking with lawyers, state government officials, medical experts and industry executives.”
The Indian Express
n For his stories exposing misuse of official machinery by politicians and bureaucrats, including the report on the appointment of relatives as PAs by MPs.
“I had put in an RTI application in the secretariats of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha asking for the list of PAs of MPs. After I got the list, I called over 700 MPs and enquired about their PAs. Some of the MPs were aggressive, so I called their local landline numbers to enquire. After four months of investigation, it gradually emerged 146 MPs had appointed at least 191 relatives in their personal staff. After the story was out, the ethics committee of Rajya Sabha passed a resolution against MPs appointing close relatives as PAs.”
Hakeem Irfan Rashid and
For their stories based on the visitors’ log at the home of then CBI chief Ranjit Sinha.
“Eight months before we broke the story, I knew that Sinha’s wife was maintaining a register at their residence. The visitors’ log had around 200-250 entries, each with the names of the visitor and the date and the time of the visit. Later, we found that Sinha kept a track of the coal and the 2G scam files. Once we got the register, we were able to tally the names of the visitors with the notings of Sinha in the file of the company of which the visitor was an employee. Hence we could join the dots between these visits and the decisions taken by Sinha on these cases,” says Kirpal. Adds Radhid: “We spent a lot of time outside Sinha’s house, near a bus stop, just noticing who was walking in and walking out. Two of the most high-profile entities were being touched here—CBI and Reliance—and within a month the Supreme Court took action against Sinha.”
For her investigation of the drug menace in Punjab, that pushed the state to release R25 crore for drug rehabilitation.
“I travelled 1,000 km across Punjab and witnessed youth wasted over drugs in village after village. I went undercover and recorded psychotropic drugs being sold by grocers, chemists and even prescribed by doctors. I traced the drug route from Pakistan with the help of a local drug carrier, exposing the nexus between drug cartels and security forces. Post the story, the Punjab government released 25 crores for drug rehabilitation in the Malwa district.”
Seema Malik Verma and Sharad Vyas
For their breaks, exclusives and investigative reports on the Vyapam Scam.
“Through our sources, we investigated the hard disc data of Pankaj Trivedi (immediate examination controller, Vyapam), and came to know that an Excel sheet of passed candidates for different job openings, which was controlled by Vyapam, was referred to by MP government ministers and officials,” says Vyas.
VN Apurva and Dipankar Ghose
The Indian Express
For documenting the Muzaffarnagar communal violence, including the exodus of victims, and examining the socio-political reasons surrounding the riots.
“The biggest challenge for us was to report on incidents of violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, and also zoom out to show the politics behind them,” says Ghose. Adds Apurva, “We tried to ensure that we visit every village that reported a death and explored in detail the circumstances that led to each of these deaths.”
The Indian Express
For his coverage of sterilisation deaths in Chhattisgarh, including profiles of women who had died.
“The biggest challenge about doing the story was that the government tried its best to conceal facts. Even after stories started coming out, they refused to take responsibility. After the story, government provided relief to orphaned children.”
Karma Samten Panjor
For his coverage of cyclone Phailin in Odisha, including a live chat show using only headlights of vehicles.
“Due to accurate forecast by the India Meteorological Department, we reached Gopalpur a day before the storm hit the area. Our hotel was in front of the sea and we began reporting that night itself. Later, we moved inland for safety. Due to the high winds, we were unable to open the satellite antennas in the news van. So I reported using the phone, and sent the packages through WhatsApp. We visited many villages to show the extent of the damage. We gathered people from nearby villages, and using headlights of cars and tractors, we did a live show in the moonlight.”
Amitabh Pashupati Revi
For a series of reports from Syria and Iraq on the havoc wrought by Islamic State. They also traced the journey 46 Indian nurses took to safety
“I had to build contacts from ground zero. We had to take calculated risks because we were only 30-40 km away from IS-held territory. We had to fast forward our process since we did not have weeks and months to research and report. I had also been in touch with one of the Indian nurses, even before she had been taken hostage. I could get through on her number only a few times, since she feared talking on her phone while being held hostage.”
The Hindustan Times
n For her report on the ‘grandest Ramlila in the world’, at Ramnagar, UP, in the course of which an entire town becomes a stage.
“We were looking for Diwali special stories on the different kinds of Ramlila in India. The Ramlila in Ramnagar goes on for a month, but we went in the last week and the whole area had turned into a stage. Interestingly, the role of Surpanakha, Raavan’s sister, was played by Munni, a 45-year-old Dalit woman, and there was no caste barrier.”
For her story on Rohingya refugees from Myanmar living in a camp in Delhi.
“There are several Rohingya refugee camps across India. I focused on one camp in Delhi, visiting it several times on weekends and doing in-depth interviews of refugees. I decided to weave a tight narrative around three persons whose stories I found most resonant. I spoke with human rights workers and activists who worked on the ground in Myanmar, the UNHCR office in New Delhi, and Buddhist activists who are conventionally antagonistic toward the Rohingya.”
REPORTING ON POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
The Indian Express
For his reports on the Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh, and its nexus with political parties in the state.
“When I visited the interior areas of Chhattisgarh, I noticed that local politicians not only had links with the Maoists but in some areas where the Maoist presence was strong, politicians could not win elections without some tacit understanding with the Maoists.”
For her reports capturing issues driving voters ahead of the 2014 general elections, covering 2,500 km across India on a train.
“A train journey allowed me to speak to ordinary people about their hopes and concerns. Starting in Guwahati, I ended in Srinagar, passing through seven states in six weeks. The key challenge was to not plan and research a story before getting to a place, rather to let the place and its people lead you to the story that’s worth writing about. Listening to people gave me rich insights into the country and its incredibly diverse politics than any amount of conventional coverage of political speeches and rallies would have.”
For her documentary on the impact of the mining scam on the 2013 Karnataka Assembly elections.
“Bellary, at that point, was an unwelcome place for journalists… We not only predicted Siddaramiah would be the new CM, but also that Yeddyurappa would be back in the BJP. Within a year, that happened.”
For her 2014 general elections coverage, including a documentary on Narendra Modi.
“The documentary on Narendra Modi captured his journey from Gujarat to Delhi. The 2014 general election was only about one man—Narendra Modi. It was about the quest for power of a central character.”
The Indian Express
For capturing the destruction on the Kedarnath pilgrimage trail after the Uttarakhand cloudburst.
“For three days, we trekked on the Kendarnath pilgrimage route, and came across decaying bodies and massive landslides, even as it was continuously raining. Using ropes, we crossed broken roads and made our way through forests.”
For capturing the destruction of the 2014 Srinagar floods, and the uphill journey for the victims.
“I am a resident of Srinagar. As the water started entering neighbourhoods, I immediately sensed its devastating nature. I equipped myself with whatever I could and started reaching out to places wherever I could shoot. I think our clicks reflected what people were braving in the aftermath of the floods. It’s comforting to believe that these pictures too were instrumental in moving people, especially Kashmiris living outside India, to come forward to organise help.”
The New Indian Express
For his photo series on victims of acid attacks, fighting both physical and emotional scars.
“My series was titled A Drop of Acid, so I looked for any girl who has been a victim of acid attack. The first person I photographed was Laxmi, and through her, I got to know other survivors, in UP, Haryana and Bihar. After my exhibition of their photographs in Delhi, the government gave jobs to 35 survivors. It is a huge boost for their self-confidence and a lesson to all those who asked them to stay behind closed doors and not scare children.”
Gary J Bass
The Blood Telegram: India’s Secret War
in East Pakistan
Random House India
“I spent several years listening to the White House tapes of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s conversations, resulting in a hundred new transcriptions, going through archives in India and the United States, studying thousands and thousands of pages of recently declassified documents, and interviewing Indians and Americans who lived through these events, some of them several times. Hopefully, the book has helped remind Americans and Indians of the horrific events around the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, and to raise public awareness of the records of the governments of Richard Nixon and Indira Gandhi. It also wound up being the occasion for some admirable soul-searching inside of Pakistan about the atrocities committed by Yahya’s military regime in 1971.”
Mecca: The Sacred City
“I spent several years in Mecca when I worked at the Hajj Research Centre, King Abdul Aziz University during the ‘70s. There were few historical sites and little cultural property that told me anything about the history of the city. So I decided to write a biography of Mecca. I began writing during the summer of 2010, and finished the final draft in the winter of 2013. It is the first history of Mecca in English; and like other histories of the city, which are mostly in Arabic, it does not present a romantic image of the city. It is about real people, living turbulent and sometimes brutal lives. A city that was supposed to be sacred and a sanctuary, in fact, has a very violent history.”