Palagummi Sainath
Sainath in Attappadi, Kerala
Born (1957-05-13) May 13, 1957 (age 66)
Alma mater
Notable workEverybody Loves a Good Drought
RelativesV. V. Giri (grandfather)

Palagummi Sainath (born 1957) is an Indian columnist and author of the acclaimed book Everybody Loves a Good Drought.[1][2] He has extensively written on rural India, his notable interests are poverty, structural inequities, caste discrimination and farmers protests.[2][3][4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

He has received many awards for his journalism. The economist Amartya Sen called him "one of the world's great experts on famine and hunger".[7] 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.[8]

PARI receiving the Praful Bidwai Memorial Award

Early life and education

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 attended Loyola College in Chennai. He has a history degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.[9]


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.[10]

In the fall of 2012, he served as the McGraw Professor of Writing[11] at Princeton University.[12][13] On 1 June 2015, Sainath became the first ThoughtWorks Chair Professor in Rural India and Digital Knowledge at the Asian College of Journalism.[14] He won the inaugural World Media Summit[15] Global Award for Excellence 2014 in Public Welfare for exemplary news professionals in developing countries.[16]

Sainath served as the Coady Chair in Social Justice[17] at St. Francis Xavier University.[when?][18]

Sainath is also a photographer.[19] This 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.[20][21]

Research and books

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.[citation needed]

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.[22] 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[23] has archived the reports he filed at The Hindu.[24]

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,[clarification needed] and 60 other leading newspapers initiated columns on poverty and rural development.[25]

In 2001, 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 2001 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!![26]

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 and that it will be an independent body. Sainath cited "Rural India is the most complex part of the planet" as the reason for launching PARI.[27]

In literature or pop culture

Writer Manu Joseph caricatures Sainath using a character named "P Sathya" in his 2017 political thriller.[28]

Awards and honours

Sainath became the first Indian reporter to win the European Commission's Lorenzo Natali Prize for journalism in 1995.[29] In 2000, he won the inaugural Amnesty International Global Human Rights Journalism Prize.[30] That same year, he was awarded the United Nation's Food & Agriculture Organisation's Boerma Prize.[31][32]

In 2002, he was given the Inspiration Award at the Global Visions Film Festival[33] in Edmonton, Canada.[34] During the decade, Sainath toured ten drought-stricken states in India. This tour inspired him to write his book Everybody Loves a Good Drought.[35]

He was awarded the Harry Chapin Media Award in New York in 2006.[36]

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".[37] He was the first Indian to win the Magsaysay in that category after R.K. Laxman in 1984.[38]

He was the 2007 winner of Ramnath Goenka 'Journalist of the Year' award[39] from The Indian Express.

Sainath has not accepted government awards, stating in 2009 that "Journalism should not be judged by government and journalists should not accept awards from governments they are covering or writing about".[40] He therefore turned down the Padma Shri[41] – India’s third highest civilian award – in 2009.

On June 28, 2021, 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." In the 31-year history of the award, Sainath is the first Grand Prize Laureate from the field of journalism. Sainath contributed the 5-million-yen prize money for two purposes: Rs. 1 million to families of rural journalists[42] who 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.[citation needed]

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.[43] 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".[44]

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'.[citation needed] Another documentary film, Nero's Guests,[45] 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[46] for 2010.

He was awarded a Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) degree honoris causa by the University of Alberta in Edmonton in 2011[47] and another D.Litt by the St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, in 2017.[citation needed]


Works by Palagummi Sainath

See also


  1. ^ a b "Grand Prize 2021 [31st] PALAGUMMI Sainath". Fukuaka Prize. 28 June 2021.
  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. ^ P Sainath (1 August 2007). "Invisible India is the elephant in your bedroom". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Another churn at The Hindu as Praveen Swami & P Sainath quit".
  7. ^ "Boerma Award winners talk about their work". Food and Agriculture Organization. Archived from the original on 24 November 2001. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Everyone loves a good drought: Book review". Times of India Blog. 31 August 2019. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  9. ^ " - Diese Website steht zum Verkauf! - Informationen zum Thema nerosguests". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Blitz revisited: How P Sainath carried forward the legacy of one of India's greatest cultural icons". Scroll. 20 August 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  11. ^ McGraw Professor of Writing
  12. ^ "Psainath - psainath - PIIRS". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Journalism at Princeton Announces 2018–2019 Visiting Professors — Princeton University Humanities Council". 29 March 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  14. ^ "ThoughtWorks Chair Professor of Rural India and Digital Knowledge - P. Sainath - ThoughtWorks". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  15. ^ World Media Summit
  16. ^ "World Media Summit awards for P. Sainath, Al Jazeera". The Hindu. 27 October 2014. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  17. ^ Coady Chair in Social Justice
  18. ^ "P. Sainath_Chair". 30 July 2016. Archived from the original on 30 July 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  19. ^ photographs Archived 6 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Asia Society". Asia Society. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ "Asha-10 The Tenth Anniversary Conference" (PDF). Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  23. ^ "India Together". India Together. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  24. ^ Sainath, P (15 November 2017). Everybody loves a good drought. Penguin Books.
  25. ^ "Palagummi Sainath". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  26. ^ "P. Sainath's talk to AID volunteers, May 2001". Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  27. ^ Kumar, B. S. Satish (13 January 2013). "PARI". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  28. ^ "Manu Joseph's Miss Laila is a provocative take on Ishrat Jahan encounter case." India Today. Jason Overdorf. 20 October 2017.
  29. ^ "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - MR. P. SAINATH AWARDED WITH THE NATALI PRIZE OF JOURNALISM". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  30. ^ "Palagummi Sainath – P. Sainath". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  31. ^ Boerma Prize
  32. ^ "FAO - C 2001/REPORT". Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  33. ^ Global Visions Film Festival
  34. ^ "P. Sainath_Chair". Archived from the original on 30 July 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  35. ^ P, Sainath (1996). Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts. Penguin Books.
  36. ^ "Honouring Sainath". Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  37. ^ "Sainath, Palagummi - The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation - Honoring greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia". Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  38. ^ Menon, Meena (26 January 2015). "The uncommon man: R.K. Laxman (1921-2015)". The Hindu. The Hindu Group. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  39. ^ "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.
  40. ^ "Sainath refuses Padma Shri". Hindustan Times. 30 January 2009.
  41. ^ Team, N. L. (8 July 2021). "'Journalists should not accept awards from govts they critique': P Sainath declines AP government award". Newslaundry. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  42. ^ Priyadarshini, Anna (29 June 2021). "'Will raise funds for families of rural journalists who died of Covid': P Sainath on winning Fukuoka Grand Prize". Newslaundry. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  43. ^ Staff Reporter (8 July 2021). "YSR Lifetime Achievement, YSR Achievement awards announced". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  44. ^ "Scribes shouldn't accept govt prizes: P Sainath on rejecting YSR Lifetime Achievement award". Free Press Journal. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  45. ^ "Nero's Guests". Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  46. ^ "Gold Model for best documentary". 15 July 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  47. ^ "Spring convocation: Armed and ready to join the battleground of ideas - University of Alberta". Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.