Praful Bidwai Memorial Award

23 June 2016
Article

The Praful Bidwai Memorial Award is intended to honour and highlight courageous and independent voices in journalism. The Award was conferred on the Peoples Archive of Rural India at a public event in New Delhi on 23 June. Praful Bidwai, regarded by many as one of the best investigative journalists South Asia has produced, died tragically in Amsterdam on 23 June 2015. His friends, including the Transnational Institute, created this award to honour his legacy.

Chamnibai sits with her two daughters-in-law - Keepers of the Seeds / Photo credit Rural India Online (PARI)
He is regarded by many as one of the best investigative journalists South Asia has produced, developing a style that some call scholar-journalism. Praful wrote numerous columns for newspapers and magazines across South Asia. Millions of people read his work each month.

Praful was also a quintessential public intellectual commenting authoritatively on a wide range of issues. These included the threats of nuclear weapons, climate change, environmental destruction, religious communalism, social and political inequities. He authored a number of books too. He had just completed his last manuscript, a tome on the history of the left in India, and was excitedly thinking through the last details of production on the eve of his death. It was to be his magnum opus. The Phoenix Moment was published posthumously by Harper Collins India a few months later.

To commemorate his significant contribution, The Praful Bidwai Memorial Committee was established by his friends, including TNI. It successfully crowd-funded among his friends, comrades and admirers to have the book translated into vernacular Indian languages – a last wish expressed by Praful – and to make an annual award in his name. The Praful Bidwai Memorial Award is intended to honour and highlight courageous and independent voices in journalism. The Award is worth Euro 1,500 and is announced on the anniversary of Praful’s death – 23 June.

The first Praful Bidwai Memorial Award goes to the Peoples Archive of Rural India (PARI), set up in 2014 by Palagummi Sainath, an award winning journalist internationally recognised for his reportage and commentary on agrarian distress. PARI seeks to be both a journal and archive, recording and documenting rural India in all its diversity. Bold in conceptualisation and innovative in methodology, it uses the tools of digital communication, the practice of data storage, and the principles of good journalism to capture the layered realities of a region that is home to over 800 million people speaking in an estimated 700 languages.

The modes of life in this ecologically varied terrain, its arts, crafts and literature, its patterns of occupation and negotiation, its forms of transport and ways of knowledge building, are all themes that enliven the PARI website and make it a truly “living archive”. The Praful Bidwai Memorial Committee especially commends the fact that PARI makes no attempt at exoticising the subjects it covers. The approach is participatory and open-ended with the protagonists themselves often turning into documenters of their own lives.

The Award was conferred on PARI, represented by P. Sainath, by Praful’s sister, Ms Meera Ganorkar, at a public event held in the Constitution Club of India in New Delhi on 23 June. The event included lectures by eminent journalists, including Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who spoke to "Indian media in crisis".

Visit the awardwinning website.