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Reuters Photographers Win Pulitzer for Images of India’s COVID Devastation

Adnan Abidi, Sanna Mattoo, Amit Dave and (posthumously) Danish Siddiqui have won the prize “for images of COVID-19’s toll in India that balanced intimacy and devastation while offering viewers a heightened sense of place”.

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The 2022 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography has been awarded to Reuters photographers Adnan Abidi, Sanna Mattoo, Amit Dave and (posthumously) Danish Siddiqui “for images of COVID-19’s toll in India that balanced intimacy and devastation while offering viewers a heightened sense of place”.

A bank employee manages crowds during India’s COVID-19 lockdown in Agra, India, April 7, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

A woman wearing a face mask travels inside a Delhi metro train on the first day of the restart of their operations following the COVID-19 lockdown, New Delhi, September 7, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

India’s COVID-19 story has been the subject of many awards and much public discussion because it has, at its largest, been a story of contrasting magnitudes: the scale of the devastation, especially during the second wave a year ago in 2021, versus the minuscule numbers in the Indian government’s official record. Most recently, this contrast manifested as a dispute between the government and the WHO, which released a report claiming India’s actual toll to be 4 million – in line with several other independent estimates. India, however, was so disapproving that it wanted the report’s release delayed by 10 years.

A vendor wearing a protective face mask reads a newspaper at his stall as he sells face masks and newspapers amidst the COVID-19 outbreak in Srinagar, September 7, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Sanna Irshad Mattoo

COVID-19 patients at the casualty ward of a hospital in New Delhi, April 15, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

A patient is wheeled inside a hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of COVID-19 in Ahmedabad, India, April 19, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave

Healthcare workers in PPE collect swab samples from men during a rapid antigen testing campaign for COVID-19, at an auditorium turned into a testing centre in Ahmedabad, India, March 23, 2021. Reuters/Amit Dave

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi wasn’t spared. In September 2020, he became the second Indian prime minister to win the Ig Nobel Prize, a satirical prize awarded by a magazine called Annals of Improbable Research. When awarded to scientists, it aims to recognise scientific work that “makes people laugh – then think”. But when it was awarded to the heads of the governments of Belarus, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the UK and the US, it was “for using the COVID-19 viral pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can.” Their ‘work’ didn’t make anyone laugh.

Migrant workers and their families walk on a railway platform after returning from Uttar Pradesh, to their jobs in Ahmedabad, July 2020. Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave

A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a swab from a migrant laborer for a rapid antigen test at the site of an under construction residential complex amidst a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in New Delhi, India, September 19, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Dr Kumar Gaurav, a consultant psychiatrist, was named the top official at Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital despite being one of its most junior consultants, after COVID-19 hit the city, Bhagalpur, July 26, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Danish Siddiqui was killed “while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban forces in Spin Boldak, near the Pakistan border” on July 16, 2021, in the words of his Pulitzer Prize profileThe Washington Examiner reported five days later that contrary to previous reports, which claimed he had died in crossfire, the Taliban had murdered him after verifying his identity. His body was interred at the Jamia Milia Islamia on July 18 with a throng of well-wishers paying their respects. Siddiqui had previously won another Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Rohingya crisis, in 2018.

A health worker speaks to the relative of a COVID-19 victim before cremation, in New Delhi, November 13, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

A healthcare worker in protecting give squeezes the sweat out of his face masks as he takes a break from collecting swab samples for rapid antigen tests, Ahmedabad, July 24, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave

Children of migrant workers in New Delhi wearing protective face masks wait to cross the border to Uttar Pradesh, 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

The Indian government has asserted that it will continue to dispute the WHO’s findings, in particular its researchers’ methods, while insisting at the same time that India’s civilian death registration system is robust and unlikely to have missed any deaths. Many independent experts, including mathematician Murad Banaji, have written about their inability to trust the government because of its lack of transparency and data suppression tactics. The WHO has also said that it will work with the Indian government to assuage the latter’s concerns, but deferred to its obligation to the global healthcare community when it published its report.

A barber wearing a protective face mask looks at his mobile phone as he waits for customers, amidst the spread of COVID-19 in the old quarters of Delhi, August 24, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

A mass cremation of people who died due to COVID-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi, April 22, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

People carry oxygen cylinders after refilling them in a factory, amidst the spread of COVID-19 in Ahmedabad, April 25, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave

The Wire couldn’t use more than one photo by Sanna Mattoo as the others weren’t available in our subscription.