Mumbai: From a senior lawyer citing our hate crime data in a submission to the Supreme Court to the Economic Survey of India quoting our report on the declining participation of women in the workforce, IndiaSpend and FactChecker.in stories became part of wider policy discussion in 2018.
Using data to spot trends that uncover the lives of real people, to simplify complex issues and to verify all these with extensive reporting and investigation, we continued to bring you the facts behind issues of national and public interest in 2018.
Our three hate-crime databases, relating to religious bias, cow vigilantism and rumours of child-lifting, help document these incidents and identify patterns that can inform public and official understanding. The awards we got this year for in-depth, data-led reporting on health and gender focussed on the untold stories that matter.
As we gear up for 2019, below is a recap of some our favourites:
Fast-tracked clearances could endanger India’s wildlife
The National Board for Wildlife is responsible for framing India’s policy and strategy for wildlife conservation. One of its key tasks is to regulate development projects to safeguard wildlife and forests, but in the four years of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, the board has rarely rejected any damaging projects in India’s last wild spaces or ‘Protected Areas’, we found.
An IndiaSpend investigation showed how fast-tracked wildlife clearances to improve the ease of doing business has diluted this apex body’s conservation ethic and agenda and could push India’s endangered wildlife to the brink, reduce water sources and fuel local and global warming.
How the rise of Dalits is leading to violent, upper-cast resistance
Instances of anti-Dalit violence are manifestations of a deeper struggle within the Indian society, as incidents in recent years have shown. Upper caste men and women are increasingly anxious that Dalits, previously considered untouchable and fit only for “impure” tasks, are now enrolling in schools in greater numbers, studying in colleges, finding better jobs and aspiring for long-denied equality.
In the first of our two-part series, we found that though an increasing number of Dalits are completing school, enrolling in colleges and earning higher incomes, opposition to inter-caste marriages is still strong. This is true even of urban areas like Navi Mumbai where 15-year-old Swapnil Sonawane, a Dalit, was murdered in 2016, allegedly because of a romantic relationship with an upper-caste girl.
Our second part looked at rural areas, where, with increasing literacy and access to urban lifestyles, Dalits are questioning the casteist status quo in villages. In Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, there have been several instances of upper caste communities stopping the wedding processions of Dalits, objecting to their right to play music and demanding that the groom not ride a mare as is the custom among ‘upper’ castes.
Kerala's successful war against tuberculosis
As India strives to make good its commitment to ending tuberculosis (TB) by 2025, there are valuable lessons to be learnt from Kerala, which has among the lowest TB rates in the country--67 cases per 100,000, less than half the national average of 138 per 100,000.
In our four-part series, we looked at the strategies the state is using, including proactive detection of cases at the earliest stage, increased access to detection tools, monitoring of vulnerable persons, administering of preventive drugs to those living in close contact with patients and deployment of health workers to ensure patients complete the treatment protocol.
Documenting rising mob violence
Our analysis of news reports from across India showed that since the start of 2018, 24 persons have been reported killed in 61 cases of mob violence sparked by rumours of child-lifting circulated on social media.
This is a rise of 4.5 times in attacks and two-fold rise in deaths of this kind reported over 2017, when 11 persons were killed in eight separate attacks. In all cases, the victims were assaulted on mere suspicion and no evidence of child lifting was found later. So far, police across states have arrested at least 181 persons in connection with 21 cases.
Officially launched this year (October 2018), the hate-crime database by FactChecker.in collates and cross-verifies reports of religious hate crime of English-language print and online media sources across India. Modelled on other similar experiments across the world, the database is our attempt to document hate crimes, a large number of which do not get reported and are not recorded separately by the National Crime Records Bureau.
How Tamil Nadu women are changing the face of local government
Women leaders have transformed the face of local governance in Tamil Nadu over the last two decades. Today, there are 277,160 women leaders who have held office across all levels of urban and rural governance.
Why have so few of these administrators made it to mainstream politics, the assembly or parliament? It is because party structures are dominated by upper caste men and sexism is deeply entrenched, IndiaSpend found in its investigations into the lives of women leaders across Tamil Nadu.
Other stories in the five-part series:
What ails our public healthcare system
The story of Arti and Kailash is a reminder of how India’s public healthcare system lacks essentials and leaves out its poorest.
Ahead of the launch of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Scheme, it asked a critical question: What use is an insurance scheme when there are no private hospitals for hundreds of kilometres in several corners of India, and government hospitals have neither a doctor nor a ventilator?
Our investigation highlighted the human toll of inadequate healthcare where the poorest families suffer the most. It won us an award in a Global Health Reporting contest by the International Centre For Journalists (ICFJ).
Women at work, and why they are disappearing
Our nation-wide investigation found that women are falling off the labour map for various reasons, including the need to get their family’s permission to work, social attitudes about what is “appropriate” work for women, having to bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work, and dealing with safety issues and the lack of affordable and reliable public transport.
Indian women are increasingly dropping out of the workforce in what economists call the ‘motherhood penalty’. In Part 12 of our ongoing investigation we asked: Is maternity leave the only obstacle faced by working mothers? Why does the female labour force participation plummet for married women? How can we change this?
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