Kerala: Stories that mattered

There was no dearth of news in 2021: Some good, some bad. What remained consistent was TNIE’s commitment to good journalism.

Published: 27th December 2021 07:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th December 2021 07:39 AM   |  A+A-

Kerala Police take the picture of a man after handing him a fine for disregarding Covid restrictions

Police in Kerala take the picture of a man after handing him a fine for disregarding Covid restrictions. (File photo | EPS)

Express News Service

There was no dearth of news in 2021: Some good, some bad. What remained consistent was TNIE’s commitment to good journalism. As 2022 approaches, we kick off our year-ender series with reports that made an impact, that inspired all and that forced a rethink at the highest level. These are just a few of 2021’s...

Left to fend for himself

1. Tortured by party, denied pension, ex-IPS officer works as security man
2. Tears rolled as I walked out of CM’s office: Harassed ex-cop recalls meeting.

The report highlighted the plight of ex-IPS officer K Radhakrishnan, who was tortured mentally and physically by the ruling CPM for refusing to accept its narrative as probe officer in the Fazal murder case in 2008. He was thrashed by goons, falsely implicated and suspended. He retired on April 30, 2021, but the government blocked his pension, forcing him to work as a security officer in a neighbouring state. Upon reading his ordeal, many people contacted TNIE offering help. An online portal launched a drive and raised Rs 60 lakh for him.

ILL-GOTTEN WEALTH

Rs 125 crore: What state govt earned by penalising Covid-hit people — Shan AS 

The report described how the government used the lockdown to fill its coffers by allowing the police to indiscriminately penalise people, who were already reeling under the lockdown, for even the slightest Covid protocol violation. It revealed that the police collected minimum Rs 125 crore in fines since the first day of lockdown on May 8 to the introduction of relaxations on August 4. The report drew public attention to police’s high-handedness. The Opposition too took potshots at the government for exploiting the pandemic to fill the treasury.

Touchwood: 100% disabled but 1% affected  — George Poikayil

Despite being paralysed from the neck down for 12 years, Shanavas T A refused to let his limitations define him. He set up a multi-crore timber business from his hydraulic bed. A monitor in his room showing CCTV footage from his two timber stores, depot and his house, and an AirPod and phone that keep him connected to customers help him from a technological perspective. His wife Rahmath and daughters Fida and Nida lend him emotional strength and aid him in his business.

Examination shocker

‘Regressive’ passage in CBSE exam irks Class X students — Sovi Vidyadharan

Students who took CBSE’s Class X English Language and Literature exam on December 11 were in for a shock when they saw a regressive passage that promoted misogyny. Carrying a grab of the same, TNIE published reactions of  students, teachers and parents who were outraged at such regressive ideas finding a place in the exam. National media outlets carried a follow-up story the next day. Congress national head Sonia Gandhi too raised the issue in Lok Sabha and demanded an inquiry. CBSE then admitted that the passage was not in tune with its guidelines. It dropped the controversial passage and awarded full marks to students. 

The numbers don’t add up

Mask or minimal movement? Fatalities drop in pandemic year — Unnikrishnan S

In what was the first of many articles on the Covid death toll of the state, the report described how Kerala saw consistently lower deaths in the country despite being one of the worst-affected Indian states. The report was followed by more articles on experts expressing doubts on the number of deaths and the lack of transparency in the entire process. The Opposition took up the issue. The government later brought in a transparent mechanism and added previously unreported deaths to the toll. 
It wasn’t all. On April 1 and 6, reports by Anuja Susan Varghese (Covid conundrum: First wave yet to subside, second not far away & Second Covid wave to spread faster: Experts) correctly predicted the course of the pandemic in the state. The reports came at a time when the assembly polls, rampant Covid protocol violations and lockdown relaxations toppled the state’s efforts to control the pandemic.

A sorry state of affairs

A mess in the making  — B Sreejan

The story, which analysed the CAG report, described how mounting public debt and a steep increase in revenue and fiscal deficits were leading Kerala towards an unprecedented financial crisis. It exposed how the government erred by going for a pay revision in April, thereby deepening the financial crisis. Borrowings too crossed 110% of budget estimate, which sent alarm bells ringing.

Covering all aspects

The story was followed by a six-part series on Kerala’s fragile economy. It covered almost every aspect ailing the state’s finances. Through their in-depth reports, B Sreejan, M S Vidyanandan, Dhinesh Kallungal and Rajesh Abraham described how Kerala’s practice of availing loans mindlessly would lead to a debt of Rs 3,27,000 crore by the end of this fiscal, the challenges it faced in mobilising tax and non-tax revenue, the financial impact of the return of emigrants, the pay gap between a skilled labourer and a government employee, and the state’s inability to attract huge investments as well as its failure to become a self-reliant powerhouse by promoting local business. The series concluded with interviews of Finance Minister K N Balagopal and Opposition Leader V D Satheesan. Both of them agreed that there was a crisis and spoke about the way forward.

August 1

WE LOST SOME GOOD SOULS

Hit hard by lockdown money crunch, 17 end lives in 6 weeks — B Sreejan

The story and the detailed infographic (Pushed to brink, they gave up), brought to fore the burden that the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 put on Keralites. TNIE carried the pictures and details of the 17 souls who, unable to bear financial hardships, took the extreme step between June 20 and July 31. The reasons were same — loss of jobs and/or mounting debts. The widely-discussed report was followed by more articles exposing the unscientific curbs planned. The Opposition took up the issue forcing the government to relax the curbs on normal life. 

Rise of Kerala’s Phoenix

From verge of suicide, woman overcomes odds to become cop — Amiya Meethal

An abusive marriage pushed Noujisha, 31, a Muslim woman, to the brink of suicide. However, she pulled herself together and joined an entrance examination coaching. It bore fruit and Noujisha was selected for not one but three PSC jobs. She decided to become a police officer and is now a trainee at Peruvannamuzhi station. The report prompted Kozhikode Rural Police SP to make Noujisha the mascot of the Rural Police’s Domestic Conflict Resolution Centre, a helpdesk for women facing domestic violence.

No challenge too big

Battling diseases and hardship, Shimi cracks law entrance at 41 — Anuja Susan Varghese

The report chronicled the battles and triumph of Shimi Shankar. The 41-year-old took care of her daughter Aiwanjali, a Class 5 student diagnosed with autoimmune disease Juvenile Dermatomyositis. Her husband, a private company employee, suffered two heart attacks and could not look after the family properly. Despite all odds, Shimi cracked the Kerala Law Entrance Exam. Her story and daughter’s medical situation prompted many kind hearts to offer financial support.

A lesson in equality and choice

Forced to pick between saree and job, lecturer chooses freedom — Lakshmi Priya

TNIE brought attention to the forced imposition of the saree as a dress code on woman lecturers in the state. The report described how a young and qualified teacher said no to a job in a higher education institute after the management said she would have to wear a sari to work every day, even though such a dress code did not apply to male professors. Two days after the report was published, the Kerala Higher Education Department issued a circular clarifying that every teacher has the right to dress as per their choice and comfort.



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