Scroll’s Arunabh Saikia on Wednesday won the Asian College of Journalism 2022 award in the investigative journalism category.
Saikia received the award for his investigation titled “Adani power stations get coal from Hasdeo Arand mine allocated to Rajasthan” published in December.
“Saikia’s investigation sheds light on the alleged illegal coal trading practices of Adani Power Limited and its connections to the political establishment in India,” the journalism college said in a statement.
Analysing railway freight records obtained using the Right to Information, Saikia found that millions of tonnes of coal from a mine in Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo Arand forest were sent to Adani-owned power stations.
This happened even though the mines have been allotted to Rajasthan’s state electricity generation company. The company, Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited, however, had formed a joint venture with Adani Enterprises, called Parsa Kente Collieries Limited, and outsourced mining operations to the Adani Group.
The terms of the agreement allow Adani Enterprises, which has a 74% stake in the joint venture, to sell coal “rejects” – or lower-grade coal – from the Parsa East and Kanta Basan mine. Saikia found that coal was being sold to three Adani-owned power plants at a rate significantly below the lowest price charged by government-owned Coal India Limited, the main coal supplier in the country.
“Activists have long alleged that this would create a backdoor method for the Adani Group, which is also India’s largest private power generator, to use coal from the mine in its own power stations,” wrote Saikia.
“If the cheap coal is fit enough to be burnt in Adani power stations, why not in Rajasthan government’s power plants for which it was originally intended?” he wrote in the article.
Read the full report:
The jury for the 2022 awards said that Saikia’s work stands out from others as it exposes the industry nexus that has been “bleeding the country of its resources”.
“It is a fitting testament to good investigative journalism, embracing time-honoured but now-endangered qualities such as editorial rigour and tireless persistence to uncover the truth,” it said. “What Saikia unravelled should leave many red-faced, provided they have any shame.”
Besides Saikia, Neel Madhav and Alishan Jafri won the KP Narayana Kumar Memorial Award for Social Impact Journalism and Tanmoy Bhaduri got the Ashish Yechury Memorial Award for Photojournalism.
Madhav and Jafri won their award for the work “Clicks and Bait: How a constellation of far-right Hindi YouTubers determine what you see on your TV” published in The Caravan magazine.
The jury said that the report “uncovers the ugly truth behind the manipulation of mainstream media narratives by right-wing amateur Youtubers”.
“The award is for many things,” it said. “It is for their lucid unpacking of the osmosis between
click-bait stories on social media and mainstream news reporting. It is for diligent
detailing, evident in the way Madhav and Jafri interleave their narrative with case study
after case study.”
Bhaduri won the award for the photo essay published along with Roli Srivastava’s essay “Children of India’s burning coalfields dream of a fire-free future” published in Context News, a Thomson Reuters Foundation platform.
The jury said that the essay and the photostory explore the lives of those earn their livelihood by scavenging coal in Jharia, one of the coalfields in Jharkhand.
“Bhaduri’s images capture the harsh realities of the coal industry and its impact on the lives of ordinary people,” they said. “His work is a testament to the power of visual storytelling.”
The jury added: “Bhaduri’s pictures depict life amidst a dark present; a child in one of the frames in this story peeps out through a gaping hole on the dilapidated wall, only to see darkness on the other side. The engulfing smoke from the insomniac embers hides the very darkness from our naked eyes. Tanmoy Bhaduri captures this darkness that is swallowing Jharia, a mining town in Jharkhand.”