Covid distress

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: India

Publishing organisation: The Indian Express

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-08-25

Language: English

Authors: Shyamlal Yadav


Shyamlal Yadav, is an Associate Editor (Investigation) of The Indian Express and one of the pioneers of the effective use of RTI (Right to information) for investigative reporting.
He was part of ICIJ’s Paradise Papers investigation. His reporting on polluted rivers, foreign travel of public servants, MPs appointing their relatives as their assistants, and more has generated impact in India. He has addressed conferences at a range of forums, including UNESCO, Columbia University and European, Asian and Global investigative journalism conferences. He is the author of a book, Journalism Through RTI: Information, Investigation, Impact.

Project description:

Government of India was saying all was well after Covid, the impact on Indians was severe. Information was accessed from the declarations of Insurance companies. It took nearly 15 days to extract the information. Crux was that “over 2.30 crore (23 million) life insurance policies were surrendered by policyholders in 2021-22, much ahead of their maturity.” This was more than three times the number of policies (6.978 million) surrendered prematurely in 2020-21. A national lockdown announced on March 24, 2020, following the Covid-19 outbreak, had forced many people out of jobs across the country, resulting in loss of livelihood/salary cuts.

Impact reached:

This brought out a bitter truth and a reality which was not being accepted by the government earlier. My story came as an eye opener for the government about the severe impact that how it resulted in job losses and salary cuts and increasing medical expenses.

Techniques/technologies used:

This whole informationw as accssed from the declarations made by various companies which were available in public domain. It proved that how investigative stories can be brought out from the data available in those declarations.

Context about the project:

It was done from my desktop from websites of respective insurance companies.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

That data is everywhere and government data tells story. What journalists need to do it carefully go through those disclosures of companies made before government authorities available in public domain. If you know the subject, you know how to access the information and if know how to analyse the data, you can get high impact stories from such data without going anywhere.

Project links: