Palagummi Sainath

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Palagummi Sainath
P Sainath.jpg
P. Sainath in a meeting at Attappadi, Kerala, India
Born (1957-05-13) May 13, 1957 (age 65)
Alma materLoyola College
Jawaharlal Nehru University
Notable work
Everybody Loves a Good Drought
AwardsRamon Magsaysay Award
PUCL Human Rights Journalism Award
Raja-Lakshmi Award

Palagummi Sainath (born 1957) is an Indian journalist and author of the book Everybody Loves a Good Drought.[1][2] He has reported on rural India, writing about poverty, structural inequities, caste discrimination and farmers protests.[2][3][4]

He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2007, for believing that "journalism is for people, not for shareholders", and for writing about "those who have been left behind".[5][6] He founded the People's Archive of Rural India (PARI) in 2014, an online platform that focuses on social and economic inequality, rural affairs, poverty, and the aftermath of globalization in India.[7] He was a senior fellow at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, and was earlier the Rural Affairs Editor at The Hindu until his resignation in 2014.[8]

The economist Amartya Sen called him "one of the world's great experts on famine and hunger".[9] His book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, is a collection of his field reports as a journalist, and focuses on different aspects of rural deprivation in India.[10]

PARI gets first Praful Bidwai Memorial Award

Early life and education[edit]

Sainath was born into a Telugu speaking family in Madras. He is the grandson of Indian politician and former President of India, V. V. Giri.[citation needed]

Sainath went to Loyola College in Chennai. He has a history degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.[11]


Sainath started his career at the United News of India in 1980. He then worked for the Blitz, a major Indian weekly tabloid published from Mumbai, first as foreign affairs editor and then as deputy editor, which he continued for ten years.[12]

On June 28, 2021, P. Sainath won the Fukuoka Grand Prize,[1] one of Japan’s most prestigious international awards that honours ‘individuals, groups or organisations who create as well as preserve the many distinct and diverse cultures of the Asian Region.’ The last Indian winner of the Fukuoka Grand Prize was music maestro A.R. Rahman[13] in 2016. In the 31-year history of the award, P. Sainath is the first Grand Prize Laureate from the field of Journalism. Sainath is contributing the 5-million-yen prize money for two purposes: Rs. 1 million to families of rural journalists[14] who have lost their lives to Covid-19. And Rs. 2.3 million to set up People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) fellowships for rural journalists from Dalit and Adivasi communities.

Sainath was awarded the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism Literature and Creative Communications Arts. He was given the award for his "passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India’s national consciousness".[15] He was the first Indian to win the Magsaysay in that category after R.K. Laxman in 1984.[16]

Sainath became the first Indian reporter to win the European Commission's Lorenzo Natali Prize for journalism in 1995.[17] In 2000, he won the inaugural Amnesty International Global Human Rights Journalism Prize.[18] That same year, he was awarded the United Nation's Food & Agriculture Organisation's Boerma Prize.[19] In 2002, he was given the Inspiration Award at the Global Visions Film Festival in Edmonton, Canada.[20] During the decade, Sainath toured ten drought-stricken states in India. This tour inspired him to write his book Everybody Loves a Good Drought.[citation needed] He was awarded the Harry Chapin Media Award in New York in 2006.[21]

Sainath has not accepted government awards stating, "Journalism should not be judged by government and journalists should not accept awards from governments they are covering or writing about".[22] In 2009 he won the Ramnath Goenka 'Journalist of the Year' award[23] from The Indian Express.

On July 7, 2021, the government of the state of Andhra Pradesh announced the winners of its new YSR Lifetime Achievement Awards. Sainath’s was the first name in the journalist category for this prize that gives each winner Rs. 1 million.[24] He, however, turned down the prize as it is his belief that journalists should not accept awards from governments they cover and critique. In his words “the journalist is an external auditor to government.[25]

This is not the first time Sainath has declined state honours. He has never accepted one in 40 years and has turned down several, including the Padma Bhushan [26] – India’s third highest civilian award – in 2009, on the same grounds on which he declined the YSR Lifetime Achievement award.

Canadian documentary film maker Joe Moulins made a film about Sainath titled "A Tribe of his Own". When the jury at the Edmonton International Film Festival picked its winner, it decided to include Sainath in the award along with the maker of the film because this was 'an award about inspiration'. Another documentary film, Nero's Guests,[27] looks at inequality (as manifest in India's agrarian crisis) through Sainath's reporting on the subject. Nero's Guests won the Indian Documentary Producers Association's Gold Medal for best documentary[28] for 2010.

He was awarded a Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) degree honoris causa by the University of Alberta in Edmonton in 2011[29] and another D.Litt by the St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, in 2017.

In 2012, he served as the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University. He was the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University Fall (2012).[30][31] On 1 June 2015, Sainath became the first ThoughtWorks Chair Professor in Rural India and Digital Knowledge at the Asian College of Journalism.[32] He won the inaugural World Media Summit Global Award for Excellence 2014 in Public Welfare for exemplary news professionals in developing countries.[33]

Sainath served as the Coady Chair in Social Justice at St. Francis Xavier University.[20]

Sainath is also a photographer [34] that have accompanied his reporting for the past 40 years. His exhibition Visible Work, Invisible Women: Women and work in rural India has been seen by more than 600,000 people in India alone. The exhibit toured internationally and included a showing at the Asia Society[35][36]

Research and books[edit]

The International Monetary Fund-led economic reforms launched in 1991 by Manmohan Singh constituted a watershed in India's economic history and in Sainath's career. He felt that the media's attention was moving from "news" to "entertainment" and consumerism and lifestyles of the urban elite gained prominence in the newspapers which rarely carried news of the reality of poverty in India.

He was awarded a fellowship and traveled to the ten poorest districts of five Indian states. He covered 100,000 km using sixteen forms of transportation and walked 5,000 km.[37] He credits two editors at the Times with much of his success in getting the articles published, since it is one among the very newspapers that has been accused of shifting the onus from page one to page three.[clarification needed] The paper ran 84 reports by Sainath across 18 months, many of them subsequently reprinted in his book Everybody Loves A Good Drought.[citation needed] The website India Together[38] has archived the reports he filed at The Hindu.[39]

His writing has provoked responses that include the revamping of the Drought Management Programs in the state of Tamil Nadu, development of a policy on indigenous medical systems in Malkangiri in Orissa, and revamping of the Area Development Program for tribal people in Madhya Pradesh state. The Times of India institutionalized his methods of reporting and sixty other leading newspapers initiated columns on poverty and rural development.[40]

He was instrumental in the establishment of the Agriculture Commission in Andhra Pradesh to suggest ways for improving agriculture in that state:

The crisis states are AP, Rajasthan and Orissa. In the single district of Anantapur, in Andhra Pradesh, between 1997 and 2000, more than 1800 people have committed suicides, but when the state assembly requested these statistics, only 54 were listed. [see 29 April and 6 May issues of The Hindu, for more details]. Since suicide is considered a crime in India, the district crime records bureaus list categories for suicide – unrequited love, exams, husbands' and wives' behavior, etc.; in Anantapur, the total from these categories was less than 5%. The largest number, 1061 people, were listed as having committed suicide because of "stomach ache". This fatal condition results from consuming Ciba-Geigy's pesticide, which the government distributes free, and is almost the only thing the rural poor can readily acquire!![41]


Sainaith on the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Capitalism vs Socialism:

The WTO and GATT type of agreements are very undemocratic. Corporate leaders make policy, not the elected representatives. When people in Geneva draw up regulations, some local panchayat leader cannot be asked to address the consequences of those decisions, when his/her input was not sought in making the decision itself. The idea of different systems is superficial, the most striking aspect of free-market capitalism is that it has benefited the exact same people who gained from socialism! It isn't unexpected, either. After all, the South Commission report[42] was signed by Manmohan Singh 90 days before the liberalization process, can he really have changed his views that much in that time? Political opportunism and media management have provided the appearance of different choices and systems, without any meaningful changes in outcomes.[41]

On the condition of law and order maintenance in India:

"All the judges of the Supreme Court do not have the power of a single police constable. That constable makes or breaks us. The judges can't re-write the laws and have to listen to learned lawyers of both sides. A constable here simply makes his own laws. He can do almost anything." With state and society winking at him, he pretty much can.[43]

On Market Fundamentalism:

Even a call for discussing this amounts to demanding 'obsolete' practices of the interventionist state. If we hadn’t mucked around trying to get the state to play God for 50 years, none of this would have happened. If only we had got it right and let the market play God instead. Based on the premise that the market is the solution to all the problems of the human race, it is, too, a very religious fundamentalism. It has its own Gospel: The Gospel of St. Growth, of St. Choice...Welcome to the world of Market Fundamentalism. To the Final Solution.[44]

On the absence of reporting on the poor in India:

"You see it in the simplest and most direct way: the organisation of beats. Many beats have become extinct. Take the labour correspondent: when labour issues are covered at all, they come under the header of Industrial Relations, and they’re covered by business correspondents. That means they’re covered by the guy whose job is to walk in the tracks of corporate leaders, and who, when he deigns to look at labour, does it through the eyes of corporate leaders. Now find me the agriculture columnist – in most newspapers, the idea doesn’t exist any more. If you lack correspondents on those two beats, you’re saying 70 per cent of the people in this country don’t matter, I don’t want to talk to them."[45]

PARI initiative[edit]

Sainath, at an interaction program in Bangalore, revealed that the People's Archive of Rural India is going to commence operation on an experimental basis from June 2013. According to him this meant to serve as "an archive and living journal of history of rural India". He also clarified that the archive will not accept any direct funding by the government or corporate houses hence it'll be an independent body. Sainath cited "Rural India is the most complex part of the planet" as the reason for launching PARI. [46]

In literature or pop culture[edit]

Writer Manu Joseph caricatures Sainath using a character named "P Sathya" in his 2017 political thriller.[47]


Works by Palagummi Sainath
  • Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-025984-8

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Grand Prize 2021 [31st] PALAGUMMI Sainath". Fukuaka Prize. 28 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b "Sainath, Palagummi". Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  3. ^ P Sainath (13 April 2018). "In India, Farmers Face a Terrifying Crisis". New York Times.
  4. ^ "Farm Bills Will Create a Vacuum that May Result in Utter Chaos: P. Sainath" 23 September 2020. Mukherjee, Mitali. The Wire.
  5. ^ Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. "Sainath, Palagummi". Retrieved 10 January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "P Sainath wins Magsaysay Award | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. TNN. 1 August 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  7. ^ P Sainath (1 August 2007). "Invisible India is the elephant in your bedroom". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Another churn at The Hindu as Praveen Swami & P Sainath quit".
  9. ^ "Boerma Award winners talk about their work". Food and Agriculture Organization. Archived from the original on 24 November 2001. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  10. ^ "Everyone loves a good drought: Book review". Times of India Blog. 31 August 2019. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  11. ^ " - Diese Website steht zum Verkauf! - Informationen zum Thema nerosguests". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Blitz revisited: How P Sainath carried forward the legacy of one of India's greatest cultural icons". Scroll. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  13. ^ "A. R. RAHMAN". Fukuoka Prize. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  14. ^ Priyadarshini, Anna. "'Will raise funds for families of rural journalists who died of Covid': P Sainath on winning Fukuoka Grand Prize". Newslaundry. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  15. ^ "Sainath, Palagummi". Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  16. ^ Menon, Meena (26 January 2015). "The uncommon man: R.K. Laxman (1921-2015)". The Hindu. The Hindu Group. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  17. ^ "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - MR. P. SAINATH AWARDED WITH THE NATALI PRIZE OF JOURNALISM". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Palagummi Sainath – P. Sainath". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  19. ^ "Boerma Award winners talk about their work". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  20. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 July 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ "Honouring Sainath". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  22. ^ "Sainath refuses Padma Shri". Hindustan Times. 30 January 2009.
  23. ^ "Ramnath Goenka Awards: Karan Thapar, P Sainath adjudged 'Journalist o…". 4 September 2012. Archived from the original on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  24. ^ Staff Reporter (8 July 2021). "YSR Lifetime Achievement, YSR Achievement awards announced". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  25. ^ "Scribes shouldn't accept govt prizes: P Sainath on rejecting YSR Lifetime Achievement award". Free Press Journal. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  26. ^ Team, N. L. "'Journalists should not accept awards from govts they critique': P Sainath declines AP government award". Newslaundry. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  27. ^ "Nero's Guests". Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  28. ^ "Gold Model for best documentary". 15 July 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "Journalism at Princeton Announces 2018–2019 Visiting Professors — Princeton University Humanities Council". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  32. ^ "ThoughtWorks Chair Professor of Rural India and Digital Knowledge - P. Sainath - ThoughtWorks". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  33. ^ "World Media Summit awards for P. Sainath, Al Jazeera". 28 October 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  34. ^ photographs Archived 6 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ "Asia Society". Asia Society. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  36. ^ "Visible Work, Invisible Women: Women & Work in Rural India « Centre f…". 6 July 2011. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  37. ^ "Asha-10 The Tenth Anniversary Conference" (PDF). Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  38. ^ "India Together". India Together. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  39. ^ Sainath, P (15 November 2017). Everybody loves a good drought. Penguin Books.
  40. ^ "Palagummi Sainath". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  41. ^ a b "P. Sainath's talk to AID volunteers, May 2001". Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  42. ^ "SouthCentre". SouthCentre. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  43. ^ "A much larger house on fire". 6 September 2005. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  44. ^ "And then there was the market". Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  45. ^ "Interview with Raghu Karnad in Outlook Magazine". Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  46. ^ "PARI". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  47. ^ "Manu Joseph's Miss Laila is a provocative take on Ishrat Jahan encounter case." India Today. Jason Overdorf. 20 October 2017.

External links[edit]