I met P Sainath, in 2003, the stories and conversations with him, I will remember for the rest of my life. His Book Everybody loves a Good Drought, has completely shaken my version of India and its development. P Sainath has been a great inspiration and I recommend everyone to read his books and articles.
In a citation, released on Tuesday afternoon, the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation recognised Mr.Sainath for his "passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India's consciousness, moving the nation to action." He joined The Hindu in June 2004 and wrote extensively on the agrarian crisis.
"This award is as much The Hindu's as it is mine," Mr.Sainath said, after the announcement came from Manila. "The freedom and flexibility allowed me (by The Hindu) to plan as I wished or react very spontaneously to a new idea or development."
Profile and comments by Sainath on the Award Foundation website.
"In the early twentieth century, the press was at the heart of India's freedom struggle. During those formative years, says Indian reporter Palagummi Sainath, journalism contributed to "the liberation of the human being." In contrast, he says, India's press today merely performs "stenography" for big business and the governing elite. As the economy surges, matters that call for the urgent attention of the public and government are ignored in favor of film starlets and beauty queens, the stock market, and India's famed IT boom. Sainath has taken a different path. Believing that "journalism is for people, not for shareholders," he has doggedly covered the lives of those who have been left behind.
Born in Chennai in 1957, Sainath completed a master's degree in history before turning to a life of journalism. At Blitz, a Mumbai tabloid, he rose to be deputy chief editor and became a popular columnist. In 1993, he changed course.
For the next few years, under a Fellowship from the Times of India, Sainath painstakingly investigated life in India's ten poorest districts. In Everybody Loves a Good Drought, his bestselling book of 1997, and in hundreds of subsequent articles, Sainath presented his readers with a world that belied the giddy accounts of India's economic miracle. In this India, the harsh life of the rural poor was, in fact, growing harsher.
Sainath discovered that the acute misery of India's poorest districts was not caused by drought, as the government said. It was rooted in India's enduring structural inequalities - in poverty, illiteracy, and caste discrimination-and exacerbated by recent economic reforms favoring foreign investment and privatization. Indeed, these sweeping changes combined with endemic corruption had led small farmers and landless laborers into ever more crippling debt-with devastating consequences.
Sainath provided the evidence. He reported, for example, that the number of migrant-swollen buses leaving a single poor district for Mumbai each week had increased from one to thirty-four in less than ten years. He exposed the shocking rise in suicides among India's debt-pressed farmers, revealing that in just six hard-hit districts in 2006 alone, the number of suicides had soared to well over a thousand. He revealed that at a time when officials boasted of a national grain surplus, 250 million Indians were suffering from endemic hunger, and that in districts where government storehouses were "stacked to the roof with food grain," tribal children were starving to death.
Sainath's authoritative reporting led Indian authorities to address certain discrete abuses and to enhance relief efforts in states such as Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. But his deeper message also struck home. In 2000, nearly thirty of his articles were submitted as evidence at a national hearing on anti-dalit atrocities. In such ways, he has touched the conscience of the nation.
India's press today, Sainath says, is "creating audiences that have no interest in other human beings." He is training a new breed of rural reporters with a different point of view. His journalism workshops occur directly in the villages, where he teaches young them to identify and write good stories and to be agents of change.
Sainath finds hope in these young reporters and in the resilience and courage of the people he writes about - such as the legions of poor rural women in Tamil Nadu who have overcome taboos and learned to ride a bicycle. To advance freedom, even small freedoms such as this, is the most significant legacy of the early giants of Indian journalism to today's reporters, he says. "I'm not ready to give up on my legacy yet."
In electing Palagummi Sainath to receive the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts, the board of trustees recognizes his passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India's consciousness, moving the nation to action.
AP reports from Manila: A Filipino nationalist at the forefront of struggle for democracy during and after Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship, and a South Korean minister who dedicated his life to curing blindness are among the winners of the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award.
Jovito R. Salonga, 87, won the award for government service for tirelessly fighting for the rule of law, honest and competent government and showing compassion for the poor - democratic and social ideals that were not always easy to find in the Philippines under Marcos.
A law graduate and senator, he was crippled by a bomb blast at a political rally in 1971, a year before Marcos declared martial law. He fought Marcos' iron-fisted rule by defending the president's opponents and working for the release of political prisoners. He was briefly jailed in 1980 and spent four years in U.S. exile.
He returned a year before Marcos was ousted in the ''people power'' revolt and put his personal ambitions aside to back Corazon Aquino, the pro-democracy icon who succeeded Marcos.
Salonga initiated the government's efforts to recover Marcos' ill-gotten wealth. In 1991, as the Senate president, he clinched his nationalist credentials by leading fellow senators in voting to close down U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
''His rare moral authority stems from a simple fact: he practices what he preaches,'' the organizers said.
The Rev. Kim Sun-tae, 66, from South Korea, is being honored for public service for devoting himself to a hospital dedicated to treating and curing blindness. During the Korean War, Kim was blinded by a mortar shell, but soon learned to read Korean Braille and to type. The Korean Presbyterian Church named Kim director of Blind Evangelical Missions.
In 1986, with support from Korean businesses, he led in founding Siloam Eye Hospital, where sight-restoring surgery and modern facilities are available to the needy at no cost. In 1997, Kim opened Korea's largest rehabilitation and learning center to help blind people cope with daily life.
More than 20,000 people have received free eye surgery, and 200,000 more have been treated at the hospital.
Other winners include Mahabir Pun of Nepal, who received the community leadership award for his innovative application of wireless computer technology that brought progress to remote mountain areas. Tang Xiyang from China received the peace and international understanding award for guiding his country to meet its mounting environmental crisis.
Chung To and Chen Guangcheng of China won the emergent leadership awards. Chung's AIDS Orphans Project provides children who have an AIDS-infected parent with school fees.
Chen, blinded by a fever as a child, became a ''barefoot lawyer'' helping farmers with grievances to file court cases, leading protests against a river-polluting paper factory and documenting abuses. He and his friends were beaten, Chen was held for months under house arrest and in a closed-door trial was sentenced to four years in prison for disturbing public order. He is still serving the sentence. The awards will be presented Aug. 31 in Manila.