Shyamlal Yadav and Sandeep Singh were declared winners of the Asian College of Journalism’s Award for Investigative Journalism, while Prema Sridevi and Himanshu Kala won the K P Narayana Kumar Memorial Award for Social Impact Journalism at the school’s annual award ceremony and convocation of the Class of 2022.

The winning entry titled ‘Ayodhya land deals’, published in The Indian Express newspaper in December 2021, investigates the wrongdoings of families of public officials bought land after the apex court verdict, all within a 5-km radius of the Ram temple site.

Sridevi and Kala’s winning entry, Manual scavengers: Shit hits our head in manholes, our co-workers have died | Govt says ‘no deaths’, is an account of the lives and deaths of sanitation workers in Delhi, focusing on the human condition. The documentary feature film was produced by The Probe.

The final jury comprising Ayaz Memon (Chairperson), Swapna Sundar and Harsha Subramaniam chose the winners from shortlisted entries in each category. Both awards comprise trophies and citations. Prize money for the Investigative Journalism Award is Rs. 2 lakhs and the Social Impact Award winner receives Rs. 1 lakh.

The awards were presented to the winners by the Chief Guest Ayaz Memon, noted journalist, editor and author. Memon spoke on ‘Benefits and Challenges for the Media in the Age of Technology’. The event was attended by over 250 faculty, students and guests at The Music Academy in Chennai.

The jury also selected works from both categories for special mentions:

Investigative Journalism

  • An investigative series into the deaths due to covid by Rukmini S published in Scroll, The Hindu and India Spend.
  • The Foreigner by Makepeace Sithlou and Prakash Bhuyan published in Fifty Two.

Social Impact Journalism

The ACJ Journalism Awards Committee received 130 entries in the investigative journalism category and 177 entries in the social impact journalism category. The entries came in 11 languages from over 55 news organisations and publications as well as independent/freelance journalists from across India for the 2021 edition of the awards. Two preliminary juries comprising 13 faculty members of the ACJ selected entries for the perusal of the final jury.

The jury’s citations for each award read as follows:

Investigative Journalism

“The jury unanimously chose the investigation into the land deals in Ayodhya by Shyamlal Yadav and Sandeep Singh published in The Indian Express.

This series exposes how elected representatives and relatives of government officials rushed to buy land in Ayodhya hoping to make hefty gains after the Supreme Court verdict. The follow-up report unearths blatant irregularities in how land parcels were purchased from Dalit villagers at a throwaway price. The work of these two journalists leads to a probe by the State Government and, eventually, a court order quashing the original land transfer.

This is a stellar example of journalism done right. One that relentlessly pursues the truth and holds public servants accountable to law. These stories raise pertinent questions of conflict of interest and impropriety by those who hold high offices. Above all, these stories provide confidence that journalism in public interest continues to thrive in India, despite many pressures.

We commend Shyamlal Yadav, Sandeep Singh and The Indian Express for this outstanding work.”

Social Impact Journalism

“Taking off from statements made by Dr. Virendra Kumar, the Minister for Social Justice, journalists Prema Sridevi and Himanshu Kala guide us through the lives and, more importantly, deaths of the informal workers who descend into sewers, without proper protective gear, to manually unclog and clear them.

The report fearlessly enumerates the circumstances that force men to take up this dangerous and foul livelihood – poverty, lack of alternate employment, government disavowal, failure of civic bodies to upgrade and maintain urban sewers, and finally, the social stratification that makes the practice socially acceptable. By getting members of the manual scavenging community to speak, Sridevi and Kala have helped identify the wrong-doers – the dishonest contractors who force men down sewers, the Engineering College that turns a blind eye to the egregious practice, and the by-standers who are unwilling to address the situation.

The impactful report by Sridevi and Kala starkly repudiates official statistics that deny manual scavenging-related deaths through a disingenuous turn of phrase. We applaud the earnest effort of the journalists and that of The Probe, in underscoring the role of journalists as spokespersons for the voiceless.”

For previous Winners and Special Mentions, please see: