Today, I went to hear P.Sainath talk about growing inequalities in India which were driving farmer's suicide. Sainath is a widely respected journalist and I was mildly familiar with the name and so went to hear him talk.
He is a very impassionate speaker and has moral authority to talk on this subject. Clearly having a leftist leaning, which he scarcely tries to hide, he put forward many statistics and well founded arguments in favor of his view point.
India's economic reforms, started in early 90s, certainly seemed to have been a success story to me. For, I come from a middle class upbringing, which seemed to be better off now than before. We now had access to 100+ TV channels, mcdonalds and pizza hut and all the latest varieties of cars, computers etc.
But Sainath argues that while the top 10% of the society has benefited, the remaining 90% has suffered and the biggest sufferers are the small farmers many of whom are being led by desperation to commit suicide. The reason for this is the growing clout of big corporations, who are increasingly interested in agriculture, and the withdrawl of state assistance.
Sainath's speech was witty and humourous and he presented some of his evocative photographs of the rural indian life. Here was a man who had sacrificed a cushy job and devoted his life to bringing to focus the plight of a section which the rest of the mainstream media has abandoned.
The only mild criticism that came to my mind was that while he showed the problems graphically he did not have any real solutions. But it would be extremely harsh to expect him to give a ready made solution for such a complex socio-economic problem. Also his leanings are clearly firmly towards the left and I, for one, certainly do not agree with him that the communist governments of Kerala, West Bengal etc have always served the best interest of the people.