How do you follow some of the world's poorest people for three weeks, at a time when fears of the coronavirus have India in a nationwide shutdown?
The first task lay in finding people across India so that the story would be somewhat representative – India has 176 million people who survive on less than $1.90 a day. Access was very difficult during the shutdown, but the photographers managed to find five people/families with different jobs in different parts of India -- a maid, a street vendor, a beggar, a balloon salesman and a watchman. The photographers, Rafiz Maqbool, Rajesh Kumar Singh, Anupam Nath and Channi Anand took considerable risks in making pictures and interviewing these people despite the threat of the virus, giving the world a glimpse of their lives during the lockdown.
The next step was following them – also not easy, since we had to keep going back to the people/families to secure their cooperation for three weeks.
AP was also working under a tight deadline. The story would reach its natural end on April 14, the day the shutdown was supposed to end. (It was extended by two weeks in most areas.) The story then had to be turned around as soon as possible.
Global enterprise reporter Tim Sullivan coordinated the many moving parts along with New Delhi correspondent Emily Schmall. Sullivan also wrote the text story with New Delhi reporter Sheikh Saaliq and contributions from others, including Srinigar corrrespondent Aijaz Hussain, New Delhi photo editor Yirmiyan Arthur and the photographers. The piece contained an incredible level of detail, especially for a story written from a distance in the middle of a shutdown.
This was the first story in an investigative/enterprise project, funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, about the impact of the coronavirus on the world’s most vulnerable people.