Mumbai: Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, and mortality from the disease--in a year when the second wave devastated the economy and destroyed lives, our most read stories were all pandemic-related.

Here is a snapshot of our stories, which recap what happened over 2021 and what did not:

What the doctors said

Covid-19 cases in India surged in late March and April 2021, but the signs of this surge were there since February 2021 and the government failed to act on it, Nileena Suresh found in her analysis of Covid-19 data.

With the second Covid-19 wave, people wanted to know what the doctors were saying. Govindraj Ethiraj's interviews enlightened people on what to do when the virus hit, on the Covid-19 vaccines, and problems that doctors were facing in treating Covid-19.

Rajani Bhat, a consultant pulmonologist based in Bengaluru and Lancelot Pinto, a consultant pulmonologist and epidemiologist at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, told us how steroids are wonderful drugs if used judiciously, at the right time, for the right Covid-19 patient but that, over the pandemic, they were not administered judiciously, leading to adverse effects.

Because people were scared of Covid-19, they wanted some prescription, pressuring doctors to prescribe drugs that did not help with Covid-19, said two doctors, Gunjan Chanchalani, a consulting intensivist at Cumballa Hill Hospital and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Mumbai and Sumit Ray, head of the department of critical care at the Holy Family Hospital in New Delhi.

Anoo Bhuyan documented cases of participants in Covaxin's vaccine trial claiming that they were misled, lured with money and did not fully understand that they were part of a trial.

Rukmini S. explored data on mortality from Kerala and Maharashtra to understand whether India actually had a lower Covid-19 death rate than other countries or if it was undercounting deaths from the virus. This is one of the stories in our continuing coverage on interpreting data on Covid-19 deaths, and our series on data gaps in India.

We have also uncovered gaps in data on adolescents, in this story by Sadhika Tiwari, and on road accident deaths in India, in this story by Prachi Salve and Gokulananda Nandan, as part of this series.

Farmers, migrants and domestic workers

With the economy impacted by the pandemic and associated lockdowns, jobs were lost and incomes reduced. Pragathi Ravi wrote about the impacts on domestic workers, who were not paid during lockdown, and faced hunger and debt. Informal sector workers who work in insecure jobs, often without basic safety and hygiene, were in an even more precarious position because of the pandemic. Shalini Singh wrote about how they also face gender and pay bias, in our second Women at Work series.

Poor migrants had fled to their villages during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, bringing focus on one of the most vulnerable sections of India's workers. But even a year after the migrant crisis, the government did not have reliable data or a policy to help migrant workers tide over the Covid-19-related crisis, Shreehari Paliath found.

Next, Flavia Lopes and Mridula Chari analysed land laws and found that in 11 states, decades-old land reform laws were changed to allow industries and non-farmers to buy large parcels of agricultural land and put them to non-agricultural use.

Systematically disadvantaged women, transgenders

With the growing gig economy, more and more women are finding work through app-based services such as Urban Company, Uber and Swiggy. Shreya Raman and Rizvi Saif spoke to women workers and analysed reports to understand how this impacts womens' incomes and job security, and found that though they are able to earn more, women still face the age-old issues of occupational segregation and gender pay gaps.

Focusing on gender, Shreya Raman also analysed what impact India's gender budgets, a part of the budget since 2005-06, have had. She also explored how the lack of data on the estimated 4.8 million transgender persons in India in most government surveys, is hampering their access to social security and private services, such as banking.

Akshita Nagpal took a deep dive into the amended abortion law and found that though it allows termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks, it does so only for special categories of people and does not recognise a women's agency.

As part of a mental health fellowship, Riddhi Dastidar spoke to women who suffer from schizophrenia and how workplaces in India rarely support them.

School laws, reopening post Covid-19 second wave

In an exhaustive analysis of 145 Indian state education laws, Jayana Bedi and Prashant Narang found that the laws are verbose, restrictive and incomprehensible to even college graduates when they should be easy enough for school students to make sense of them.

Understandably, parents were worried about sending children to school because of Covid-19. But schools had stayed shut for almost one-and-a-half years, by the time some started opening up in July 2021. Children were missing school, their friends and their mental health and development was impacted, children, parents and teachers told Shreya Khaitan, in this ground report. She also wrote about how schools could re-open safely, now even more important with the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus.

Climate inequality, community climate action and net zero

The richest 20% of households in India are responsible for seven times the emissions traceable to the poor who spend less than $1.9 a day, reported Manu Moudgil. Yet, with a warming climate and more frequent extreme weather events, the poor will be most at risk.

Experts had said that though ambitious climate targets were needed, a net-zero pledge--which means reducing emissions and absorbing the leftover emission through forests and other technology--might be too early for India, Nikhil Ghanekar had reported in April. But India went ahead and pledged to reach net-zero by 2070, at the 26th Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP26) in November. You can read all our COP26 coverage, by Tanvi Deshpande and Flavia Lopes, here, and know why the path to net-zero is more important than the goal itself.

In some ways to help reduce emissions and pollution, we wrote about electric vehicles and batteries here and phasing out single-use plastics here. Focusing on community-led action to control climate change, Abhijit Mohanty reported from the remote forests of Odisha's Malkangiri district, where locals are combining science and traditional farming to grow nutrient-rich, drought-resilient millets.

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