About Me

Rebel without a cause!

Friday, October 13, 2006

A conscientious journalist

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.


nevermind said...

Welcome back. The basic assumption of free market economists when it comes to real benefits for those already underprivileged is that there will be 'a trickle down effect'. It takes a hell of a lot of time for economic benefits to trickle down, especially in countries with large populations. And that creates a well of electorate resentment that no genuinely democratic, large population-developing economy has escaped. And if and when such economies overheat, as has happened when growth has been unregulated (as in South America, for instance) it is the poor who bear the brunt of it. And when this worm turns, there usually is trouble.

Anshuman Ghosh said...

oye balle balle .. glad you are back :-D

Sreekumar said...

Yeah, its a very critical time for India which has to be managed carefully. I dont agree totally with Sainath's arguments but it is a viewpoint which should be heard because it argues for a people without any voice.

Thank u. No lifechanging experiences but I am back ;-)

abhishek said...

I agree with nevermind. Our farmer's plights have gotten worse, but you have to realize that their mortality rate is higher now than in the recent past largely because of the atrociously high lending rates they are being charged. If the government wants to help them, they must help them invest in agricultural capital through low-interest loans, much like microcredit. Sainath is a respected advocate for a section of society that doesn't have many advocates, but the lack of solutions is disconcerting because the poor need a material solution.