Kumar Sambhav

Kumar Sambhav is a journalist and cofounder of The Reporters’ Collective. He is also an inaugural AI Accountability Fellow at the Pulitzer Center. He has reported for prime global and Indian news outlets, including Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, Business Standard, Hindustan Times, Down To Earth and The Times of India on governance, business and social justice. Sambhav has received the Press Council of India National Award for Excellence in Journalism, Redink Award, Shriram Award for Excellence in Financial Journalism, Global Investigative Journalism Network’s Global Shining Light Award and the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist from the Developing World Award.


January 25, 2024

An Algorithm Declares Them Dead; Thousands Fight To Prove They Are Alive

Haryana used the state’s Family ID database and algorithms to identify genuine beneficiaries of welfare schemes. The database wrongly listed thousands of citizens as dead. Result: They lost their pensions. The Collective’s Tapasya travelled to Haryana to understand how states are using artificial intelligence in an unintelligent way, at a cost to citizens. She writes along with Kumar Sambhav and Divij Joshi. The story was produced with support from the Pulitzer Center’s AI Accountability Network.

January 24, 2024

How an Algorithm Denied Food to Thousands of Poor in Telangana

Telangana used an algorithm to build 360-degree profiles of citizens and decide whether they were eligible for state's welfare. The profiles were faulty. As a result, subsidised food was denied to thousands of poor. The state government knew of the blunder, but did not fix it. The Collective’s member Tapasya travelled to the state to understand how states are using artificial intelligence in an unintelligent way, at the cost of citizens. They report along with Kumar Sambhav and Divij Joshi. The story was produced with support from the Pulitzer Center’s AI Accountability Network.

February 27, 2023

One company gamed coal auctions. CAG said many others likely colluded. Modi government internally admitted to flawed rules but did not Investigate

During the fresh auctions of coal blocks from the coal-scam era, Modi government allowed RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group’s shell companies to undercut competition while bidding for a coal block in West Bengal. Internally the government admitted to flawed auctions but it did not investigate CAG’s warning of possible collusion in auctions by 10 other private companies to corner large coal reserves and causing loss to the exchequer.

March 17, 2022

Facebook’s algorithm favours polarising political groups -- advantage BJP

Facebook’s algorithm favours polarising political groups that keep users hooked to newsfeed; BJP fits the bill with its content and gets cheaper ads. If a political party or its proxies have pumped in enough advertisements and campaigned heavily, often with emotionally or politically charged content, to increase “engagement” on Facebook, its advertisements would automatically work out cheaper.

March 16, 2022

Facebook isn’t neutral, its algorithm offers cheaper ad rate to BJP

To provide one million views for an ad, Facebook charged all advertisers promoting BJP Rs 39,552 rupees on an average. But for Congress, it charged 52,150 rupees, nearly 32% more. The favourable pricing allows BJP, Facebook's largest political client in India, to reach more voters for less money. The Collective’s findings validate Supreme Court concerns that Facebook’s policies and algorithm pose a threat to electoral politics and democracy.

March 15, 2022

Ghost and surrogate advertisers flourish on Facebook, pour in millions to promote BJP

The Collective’s year-long investigation found that an ecosystem of proxy advertisers is flourishing on Facebook, bypassing election laws, breaking Facebook’s own rules and undercutting the political level-playing field. Surrogate advertisements worth more than 58 million rupees, most of which promoted BJP, denigrated opposition and seeded false narratives, got a whopping 1.3 billion views for a period of 22 months, almost equal to the advertisements officially placed by BJP. They helped double BJP’s visibility without the party having to take responsibility for the content or the expenditure related to their advertisements.

March 14, 2022

Facebook Allows Reliance Jio’s Firm to Promote Divisive Surrogate Ads Favouring BJP

The Jio-funded company, NEWJ, placed advertisements disguised as news. The advertisements triggered anti-Muslim sentiments, attacked BJP’s opponents and critics through distorted information and eulogised Modi government. Though it is illegal to publish such surrogate ads under Indian laws, loopholes in how the Election Commission applies the law give social media platforms a free pass.

April 24, 2020

Frustration In National Covid-19 Task Force Over Govt Inaction

Despite prior warnings from its scientists in late February, India’s government did not put in place a testing and surveillance strategy against the Covid-19 outbreak till end March, by which time its own medical experts expressed frustration at the inaction

April 23, 2020

Govt Knew Lockdown Would Delay, Not Control Pandemic

“Absent any other control measure, lifting lockdown would allow a resurgence of transmission:” India’s top medical-research body told the government in the first week of April. Two weeks into the lockdown, the measures were still not in place

March 19, 2020

EXCLUSIVE: Telangana Offered Its Own 360 Degree Citizen Tracking System To Modi Govt

After the Supreme Court restricted the use of Aadhaar, documents show the Telangana government offered to help the Union govt build an intrusive citizen database modelled on the state's Samagram system

March 17, 2020

EXCLUSIVE: Documents Show Modi Govt Building 360 Degree Database To Track Every Indian

Documents obtained under RTI show the govt is planning to use Aadhaar to automatically track every single Indian – from who they marry, address changes, financial status – through the National Social Registry



January 2024

Algorithms of Exclusion

In the past few years, at least half a dozen states have adopted profiling software to predict the eligibility of citizens for welfare schemes. These algorithms have wrongly declared the alive as dead, the poor as well-off, the disabled as able-bodied, robbing thousands of subsidised food, old-age pension, disability pension, widow pensions, and other welfare benefits for the poor. An investigation into how states are using artificial intelligence in an unintelligent way, at the cost of citizens. With support from the Pulitzer Center’s AI Accountability Network.


February 2023

CoalFiles: Govt grants unfair advantages to biz houses in coal deals

The investigation reveals that the government allowed private corporations to bypass the competitive process to corner large coal reserves. It allowed shell companies of a conglomerate to manipulate auctions, and granted an extraordinary favour to another.


December 2022

Company behind Bhopal gas tragedy used shell firms to continue biz with Indian gov’t companies

After the Bhopal gas tragedy, Union Carbide and its executives were declared absconders. Their properties were ordered to be attached. But, using a web of front companies it funnelled in goods and took out profits for more than a decade.


June 2022

Centre Makes Aadhaar Must For Free Meals Under Nutrition Mission

The move could stop millions of poor children without Aadhaar from having healthy meal, and violates a Supreme Court order that no subsidy or service may be denied to children for want of Aadhaar


March 2022

Eyeball Politics: How Facebook Gave BJP a Leg-Up

TRC investigated more than 5 lakh political advertisements on Facebook and Instagram to assess the influence of Facebook on elections. We found evidence that the world’s biggest social media network systematically undercut political competition by giving unfair advantage to BJP in elections. Read our four-part investigative series here.


December 2021

Revealed: How Linking Aadhaar And Voter Data Has Helped Parties Manipulate Elections

From predicting millions of voting choices to deleting inconvenient voters, a world of manipulative possibilities could be opened by the government’s decision—controversially pushed through Parliament—to link Aadhaar, India’s national identity database, and election commission data.


April 2020

How The Government Botched Its Covid-19 Response

Government documents and internal meeting records show its experts warned that a country-wide lockdown would only delay the pandemic not control it. The government repeatedly ignored experts' warnings and did not put in place key protocols even after a month into the lockdown


March 2020

Surveillance Nation: Inside Modi Govt’s Plan To Monitor Every Indian

The government is setting up building blocks of a project that, in the garb of welfare programs, can lead to tracking of all 1.3 billion citizens from cradle to grave. Every bit of our lives will be linked, recorded and monitored

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