A team of Reuters photographers was on Monday awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the brutal second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that ripped through India last year.

Danish Siddiqui was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer along with Adnan Abidi, Sanna Irshad Mattoo and Amit Dave in the feature photography category.

Siddiqui and Abidi were also part of the Reuters team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis.

In July, Siddiqui was killed while covering the war in Afghanistan. His searing images captured the migrant workers exodus after the imposition of the countrywide Covid lockdown and the mass cremations during the second wave of the pandemic in April and May.

A man sits next to his wife, who was suffering from a high fever, as she intravenously receives rehydration fluid at a makeshift clinic in Parsaul village in Uttar Pradesh on May 22, 2021. Reuters/Adnan Abidi.

The Pulitzer award citation said that the Reuters team had photographed the coronavirus crisis in a way that “balanced intimacy and devastation, while offering viewers a heightened sense of place”.

A man waves a handkerchief from the back seat of his vehicle at his mother as she receives oxygen in the parking lot of a Gurudwara in Ghaziabad on April 24, 2021. Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

“A world largely preoccupied with its own suffering was jolted awake to the scale of India’s outbreak after Reuters photographers documented it,” the news agency’s Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement after the award.

A female patient suffering from the coronavirus disease is attended to by hospital staff of the Holy Family hospital in New Delhi on April 29, 2021. Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

The images of Reuters photographers documenting funeral pyres burning round-the-clock and cremation grounds running out of space during the second wave showed the devastation the coronavirus wreaked across India’s cities and villages.

Hospitals across the country also experienced oxygen shortages, with some forced to approach courts due to lack of supplies.

Residences surround the grounds of a crematorium during a mass cremation for victims of the coronavirus disease in New Delhi on April 22, 2021. Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
A healthcare worker checks the temperature of a woman inside her hut during a coronavirus disease vaccination drive in Kavitha village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on April 8, 2021. Reuters/Amit Dave

During those months, reports emerged from multiple cities along the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh about bodies floating in the river or buried along its banks. The corpses were suspected to be of Covid-19 patients whose final rites could not be performed at crematoriums due to the huge rise in deaths at the time.

A healthcare worker administers a dose of Covid-19 vaccine during a vaccination drive in Kashmir's Anantnag district on June 10, 2021. Reuters/Sanna Irshad Mattoo

The Centre was widely criticised for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis. However, it claims that states did not specifically report any deaths due to oxygen shortages during the period.

Last week, the World Health Organisation said that more than 47 lakh citizens of India are thought to have died of coronavirus till the end of 2021. The Indian government denied the WHO’s claims saying that the methods used to determine excess deaths by the United Nations body were questionable.

The toll estimated by the WHO is nearly 10 times more than the official number. The Union Health Ministry has claimed that 4,81,000 citizens have died between January 2020 and December 2021.

A woman presses the chest of her father, who was having difficulty breathing, after he felt unconscious while receiving oxygen support at a Gurudwara in Ghaziabad on April 30, 2021. Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Urns containing ashes after final rites of people, including those who died from the coronavirus disease, await immersion due to a national lockdown, at a crematorium in New Delhi on May 6, 2021. Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Also read:

  1.  Danish Siddiqui photos that powerfully captured critical moments in the India story 
  2. ‘Everyone was in pain’: Meet the two Indians who won Pulitzers for photographing the Rohingya crisis