Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts

Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts The Human Face Of PovertyThe Poor In India Are, Too Often, Reduced To Statistics In The Dry Language Of Development Reports And Economic Projections, The True Misery Of The Million Who Live Below The Poverty Line, Or The Million Displaced By Various Projects, Or The Million Who Suffer From Tuberculosis Gets Overlooked In This Thoroughly Researched Study Of The Poorest Of The Poor, We Get To See How They Manage, What Sustains Them, And The Efforts, Often Ludicrous, To Do Something For Them The People Who Figure In This Book Typify The Lives And Aspirations Of A Large Section Of Indian Society, And Their Stories Present Us With The True Face Of Development

Palagummi Sainath born 1957 , the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for journalism, literature, and creative communication arts, is an award winning Indian development journalist a term he himself avoids, instead preferring to call himself a rural reporter , or simply a reporter and photojournalist focusing on social problems, rural affairs, poverty and the aftermaths of globalizati

[Read] ➪ Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts Author P. Sainath – Stockbag.info
  • Paperback
  • 470 pages
  • Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts
  • P. Sainath
  • English
  • 19 August 2018
  • 9780140259841

10 thoughts on “Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts

  1. says:

    My friends I am devastated Shaken to the core by what happens in my beloved country Ashamed to eat three square meals a day, and call myself Indian, when in parts of India children die like flies due to malnutrition and preventable diseases.The fact that I am a cog in the machine which contributes to this disaster we call development rankles still further.Review to come after I recover Well, I think I have recovered sufficiently to do an objective review.In 1991, a new government came to power in India under P V Narasimha Rao Rao was not really a career politician he was catapulted into the chair following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the PM elect of the Congress party during campaigning It was the first time that a non member of the Nehru dynasty was heading the Congress and India and Rao made the even revolutionary step of appointing the internationally acclaimed economist, Dr Manmohan Singh, as his finance minister.Dr Singh set about dis mantling the economic framework of India in a revolutionary manner The Nehruvian socialist framework, modelled loosely on Soviet Russia s system Nehru was a leftist and a fan of Stalin was demolished and capitalism was ushered in on a red carpet India s ponderous bureaucracy withered away, the country took to privatisation in a big way, the foreign exchange started pouring in and India was off, like a rocket The country has not looked back, since then.But there was a small minority who bemoaned the destruction of socialism and the rise of corpocracy They provided dire predictions of economic collapse and subsequent World Bank intervention which would turn India into a vassal state Manmohan Singh pooh poohed such fears, saying famously that there is no way to stop an idea whose time has come He also said that capitalism would now be different this would be capitalism with a human face.Well, it seemed that Dr Singh had been proven right, the way India has surged ahead economically and politically Not a single government since then had gone back on the reforms the left has slowly eroded in India so that now, we are left with only two alternatives the centre right Congress or the far right BJP It seems that India is indeed shining, and capitalism has finally overcome its traditional enemy socialism.At least, that is what I thought until I read this book P Sainath, as a reporter for The Times of India, toured ten of India s poorest districts from May 1993 to June 1995 His aim was to cover poverty in terms of processes, i e how it comes into being as opposed to the coverage of poverty as events, which is the usual style of the press, as disasters make good copy He makes the point forcefully while covering drought in Nuapada, Orissa But at the best of times, the press has viewed drought and scarcity as events And the belief that only events make news, not processes, distorts understanding Some of the best reports on poverty suffer from trying to dramatise it as an event The real drama is in the process In the causes.Deforestation has much to do with drought But being a process, it becomes a feature And then disappears into the newspaper ghetto called ecology presumed to be of interest only to rabid Greens.The reality The combined investment in all development projects in Orissa since independence is eclipsed by the commercial value of renewable timber and forests lost in making way for them.Sainath s study of the processes has left me seriously shaken India s tremendous surge of the recent years has been at the cost of the continued sometimes increased misery of the masses at the bottom of the social pyramid the multitude who have been deprived of even their base humanity since Vedic times every third human being in the world without safe and adequate water supply is an Indian Every fourth child on the globe who dies of diarrhoea is an Indian Every third person in the world with leprosy is an Indian Every fourth being on the planet dying of water borne or water related diseases is an Indian Of the over sixteen million tuberculosis cases that exist at any time world wide, 12.7 million are in India Tens of millions of Indians suffer from malnutrition It lays their systems open to an array of fatal ailments Yet, official expenditure on nutrition is less than one per cent of GNP.Empty public health centres and tribals who still apply to the local witch doctor for curing their ills.Empty schools and colleges in one case inhabited by goats.People bonded for life to work for free for usurers.Girls sold off to pay debts Development which displaces people on massive scales and permanently damages the environment.I could go on and on Sainath reports on such instances by the dozen, with passion and sincerity, and also with a certain sarcastic dry wit which would have made reading him a pleasure had not the subject been so disturbing.Always, the affected people are one at the lowest rung of the social ladder the Dalits and the Adivasis These people are officially taken care of by the government they have reservation quotas in educational institutions and government jobs a multitude of rural welfare schemes are their for their benefit but unless old power structures change, these benefits shall stay on paper The upper classes in India still use the ignorance and lack of education of those at the bottom to hold on to their privileged position in society.Denying the poor access to knowledge goes back a long way The ancient Smriti political and legal system drew up vicious punishments for sudras seeking learning In those days, that meant learning the Vedas If a sudra listens to the Vedas, said one of these laws, his ears are to be filled with molten tin or lac If he dares to recite the Vedic texts, his body is to be split That was the fate of the base born The ancients restricted learning on the basis of birth.In a modern polity, where the base born have votes, the elite act differently Say all the right things But deny access Sometimes, mass pressures force concessions Bend a little After a while, it s back to business as usual As one writer has put it When the poor get literate and educated, the rich lose their palanquin bearers.Yes, indeed.The share of education in our five year plan outlays has been falling Those who led the country to freedom had a different vision They wanted that a free India spend no less than 10 per cent of plan outlay on education Free India honoured that vision only in its breach.The first five year plan gave education 7.86 per cent of its total outlay The second plan lowered it to 5.83 per cent By the fifth plan, education was making do with 3.27 per cent of the outlay In the seventh plan, the figure was 3.5 per cent As the problems of her children s education grew , India spent less and less on them.As India pushes and towards consumer oriented development, corporates start to rule the roost The old feudal system where the landed gentry lorded it over the peasants is replaced by the corporate lackeys exploiting the workers Only the hats have changed the people underneath, and their roles, are the same.Development is the strategy of evasion When you can t give people land reform, give them hybrid cows When you can t send the children to school, try non formal education When you can t provide basic health to people, talk of health insurance Can t give them jobs Not to worry Just redefine the words employment opportunities Don t want to do away with using children as a form of slave labour Never mind Talk of improving the conditions of child labour It sounds good You can even make money out of it.This has been true of development, Indian style, for over four decades now.Central to its philosophy is the idea that we can somehow avoid the big moves, the painful ones, the reforms that Indian society really needs Is there some way we can improve people s lives without getting into annoying things like land reform There isn t, but there are powerful people who d like to believe there is.The same illusion runs through what we call our globalisation It has the Indian elite excited We must globalise There is no choice Everybody else is doing it Look at Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea Of course, everyone who is doing it, did a lot of other things All those countries if you must take authoritarian states as a model went through land reform They gave their people literacy and education, as also some standards of health, shelter, nutrition Point this out and the Indian elite discover our cultural uniqueness The same is true of child labour Dozens of other societies got rid of it But India is different So India s uniqueness does not stand in the way of globalisation It stands in the way of land reform, education, health It does not prevent external agencies making policies for India on a wide range of subjects It does stand in the way of doing away with child labour.The Indian development experience reeks of this sort of hypocrisy across its four and a half decades Ignore the big issues long enough, and you can finally dismiss them as outdated Nobody will really bother Why does everyone love a good drought Well, it brings in money from the government, so the local authorities benefit The district gets its moment in the limelight the locals get some goodies, which is like manna from heaven for these piss poor people The corrupt officials get money to siphon away, so they are happy With money in the hands of people, the moneylenders get new victims And the press positively drools with the possibility of all those photographs of emaciated children which they can splash across their front pages.In the event, the reasons for the disaster often gets ignored.I will let Sainath speak.Drought is, beyond question, among the serious problems this country faces Drought relief, almost equally beyond question, is rural India s biggest growth industry Often, there is little relation between the two Relief can go to regions that get lots of rainfall Even where it goes to scarcity areas, those most in need seldom benefit from it The poor in such regions understand this That s why some of them call drought relief teesra fasl the third crop Only, they are not the ones who harvest itSimply put, we have several districts in India that have an abundance of rainfall but where one section, the poor, can suffer acute drought That happens when available water resources are colonised by the powerful Further, the poor are never consulted or asked to participate in designing the programmes the anti drought funds bringConflicts arising from man made drought are on the rise Deforestation does enormous damage Villagers are increasingly losing control over common water resources The destruction of traditional irrigation systems is gaining speed A process of privatisation of water resources is apparent in most of the real drought areas take the water lords of Ramnad, for instance There are now two kinds of drought the real and the rigged Both can be underway at the same time, in the same placeThings haven t changed too much in some ways Quite a few journals still freely interchange the words drought and famine Obviously, these two mean very different things But the word famine is alarmist and makes better copy In 1986, one editor argued that the difference between the two was merely semantic Present day efforts at covering poverty still insist on the events approach Poverty gets covered in breathless tones of horror and shock that suggest something new has happened, even when it hasn t.Apparently, crisis merits attention only when it results in catastrophe, not earlier It takes years for a food surplus district like Kalahandi to arrive at where it has But that is a process It does not make news Maybe it is still worth writing about, though In fact, in many places, drought is called teesra fasl the third crop I could go on and on.This fantastic piece of journalism gives us a taste of the real India, the India of the villages extolled by the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi This India has been forgotten in the loud celebrations of a capitalist India, an India which is military power and a space research pioneer in South Asia But it is good for us to remember our brothers out in the wilds, at least once in a while.Who constitutes the nation Only the elite Or do the hundreds of millions of poor in India also make up the nation Are their interests never identified with national interest Or is there than one nation That is a question you often run up against in some of India s poorest areas Areas where extremely poor people go into destitution making way for firing ranges, jet fighter plants, coal mines, power projects, dams, sanctuaries, prawn and shrimp farms, even poultry farms If the costs they bear are the price of development, then the rest of the nation is having one endless free lunch.However, the destitute are fighting back In the last part of the book, Sainath recounts some stories where people have banded together to resist the might of the authorities and the machinations of the moneyed And they have scored small but significant victories.Of the battles these stories record, some might end in failure Mainly because of the lack of sustained and organised democratic politics in those areas Yet, they also argue hope People are not quite so passive They revolt in many ways And as long as that is the case, there is hope.Yes, there is always hope in a democracy Sainath has made a not insignificant contribution to this fight, through this book And if I can persuade someone to read it through my review, I believe I too would have contributed my mite.

  2. says:

    In this country To read this book is a privilege.To read this book written in English, is a privilege.To buy this book is a privilege.To read this book at night under lights, is a privilege.To read this book in my home, is a privilege.To read this book in my own room, is a privilege.To discuss this book on an online forum, is a privilege.To express angry opinions regarding some articles in this book, is a privilege.To drink water after, is a privilege.To snack while reading, is a privilege.And it goes on.The extent to which us urban dwellers are privileged is something those who lack basic resources and infrastructures, cannot fathom.

  3. says:

    This book encompasses a number of oxymorons At one moment you feel like laughing at the mindless policies of the government and various commissions, whereas at the very next moment the pain of the helpless catch your imagination making you feel thoroughly depressed and heartbroken A very lucid description of the poor of India with a pretty detailed version of the problems faced by them This book proves that an official can change the lives of a huge number of people and the only factor hindering his her path is the selfish motives involved at various levels of the machinery Incidents of heroic acts by some officials, NGOs and the villagers themselves which have changed the lives of many many people who otherwise are faced by a structured system of oppressors, lighten a ray of hope and motivates one to stand up for the cause.The very fact illustrated beautifully in this book is that even though some policies are meant to do good and are made with a good intention are completely ruined and have proved devastating for the poor, merely because the actual people getting affected do not form a part of the planning stage Overall a must read for the urban elites who do not have any incite as to what may be going on about a few minutes drive from their homes.

  4. says:

    Unspeakably brilliant.

  5. says:

    When you read these short accounts mostly newspaper reports of some of the poorest people of India, about their lives and livelihood, about their gullibility and superstitions, about their victimization by the corrupt and mindless policy makers, about their misery and public apathy towards their sufferings, you will go through a series of emotions starting from a mix of anger, amusement and pity , slowly moving to frustration and sympathy and finally succumbing to hopeless depression Good Luck.

  6. says:

    The book provides an account of the life of the other India, one that s rarely portrayed in media, an India which many of us grow up unaware of, being raised in cities The narrative is chilling, affects one at a deep level and is quite perspective altering It s a story about the sheer apathy India shows to these less fortunate citizens It questions the very concepts we use when we think of progress GDP What does that even mean for the millions of Indian citizens who re cut off from the larger economy Then there s an account of the extent of corruption Stories of corruption aren t new to us But corruption of the kind that s shown here, devoid of the slightest of humanity brings out a deep sense of disgust from within, and is profoundly illuminating.Although these stories are 20 years old, I m willing to bet that they occur even in the present day to a lesser extent hopefully And especially as corporate influences on govt only seems to increase with the present political regime, in a sense, the book is relevant than ever Perhaps the only silver lining is that better accounting of the population and digitization via schemes such as Aadhar should help weed out some of the corruption.

  7. says:

    In this insightful and exceptional work of journalism, Mr Sainath attempts to deconstruct poverty in India by covering the stories from some of the poorest of the poor districts Why are these people so poor even after all these years of poverty alleviation programmes, relief work and financial aid The author covers two districts each from Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar The stories cover the inefficiency of relief programmes, the prevention of funds trickling down to alleviate the most impoverished, displacement of locals due to development projects, destruction of forest and agricultural land, the vicious cycle of debt due to unethical moneylending, arrack, and lastly, famine and drought It takes the reader through the stories of the tribals and locals mostly lower caste 50% of the people affected by displacement are SC ST and shows the effect that the above issues have not just on their families but also on their following generations.David Foster Wallace, while talking about watching video of the 9 11 attack, says It seems grotesque to talk about being traumatized by a video when the people in the video were dying Similarly, I feel grotesque about talking or writing about being affected by reading an account of the suffering of the millions while they continue to suffer This is indeed a tragedy, and one of epic proportions Also, as one from an elite and privileged populace, it s easy to be oblivious to the havoc that we wreak on the poor the elite act differently Say all the right things But deny access to the underprivileged Poverty is not an event but a process And it requires an empathy and understanding beyond what the statistics which are ghastly enough can evoke This is the essence of the book and it does this with its stories An eye opener.

  8. says:

    This is going to be one of my all time favorites now that rural poverty and it s miserable cousin, suburban squalor, most vividly represented by Dalit India, are seen by the power structures of the country as the cause of India s backwardness, when they re, in truth, it s result I chose this line because this broadly is the theme of this book Book is a collection of articles by the author in 90s about conditions of different villages in India We tend to think of contemporary issues in oversimplified view like haan agrarian crisis , deforestation affects tribals This one shows the variants of those and how they re perpetuated by the ruling class, pouring them on rural people making their constantly nurtured living hell.First thing I liked about this books is that unlike most writers from highly privileged background who paint class, caste, religious, linguistic etc, oppression with ridiculously huge brush of poverty , Sainath puts his fingers on each of them in every case and clearly points out which part of the misery is contributed by which one.Second, book gets darker as the pages turn At this point many authors tend to get into gruesome details to either romanticize the pain of the people or make poverty porn out of it This guy doesn t Reports make you bleed internally and after a point you become numb Exactly at this point he introduces bunch of stories to give you hope, not a lot, but just enough to let you know there s still scope for you to do something.This is a must read for everyone, and in particular for people from MP, Odisha, TN, Bihar and Jharkhand You might learn a lot about your own state that you were previously oblivious to.PS A lot of people pointed out to me about Author s supposedly flawed ideologies But I don t think it matters, this is damn good journalism.

  9. says:

    It took me about a week to finish this book Almost thrice longer than it takes me to finish a book of this length And that despite the brilliant readability of P Sainath s works It s just that hard to get through these pages This book is not a flowery description of Incredible India It grabs you by the collar and punches you in the gut It s not an uncontrolled tirade against the system, it s the why and how of rural poverty in India put in terms of stories, facts and statistics It s chilling All of us have come across the rhetoric of reasons for poverty in rural India improper implementation of policies, lack of education, farmers debts, social inequalities, etc But the extent to which the mainstream media covers these is as mere bullet points, or in some extraordinary cases an editorial The author takes you on a journey to India s most backward districts The 2 poorest, in 5 of India s poorest states during the early 90s The book revolves around one theme indifference Indifference shown by the system, by the elite privileged and by Everybody else who loves a good drought.The stories you read are nothing short of horrifying About doctors in PHCs practicing in private and forcing tribals to resort to witch medicine About sons bonded in labor to usurers to pay back their father s debts and in one case to get the daughter married All while the usurerlends money at 36% interest.About tribals being displaced twice from their homes to accommodate development , and later making them ineligible for the meager compensation they are entitled to.About a woman selling her 14 year old sister in law to pay off debts About men toiling for days and being paid in kind 2 Kgs of rice, and the police assume they stole it Why Because they belong to a particular caste Development in India comes at a price mostly the sacrifice of poor And what do the poor get back in return for their sacrifice Misery.There are some stories of incredible resolve shown by villagers, willing officials, and sometimes even the higher ups to better their situation Like Arivoli Iyakkam in Pudukottai, TN But how many of these movements are allowed to function they way they re supposed to It takes the vested interests of a few people to crush such movements in seconds.And at the end of it all, you re left with feelings of anger, disgust and helplessness.

  10. says:

    P.Sainath is one of my heroes the last true journalist This collection of articles which he authored for the Times of India there is an irony to end all ironies focused on the farmer suicides that were sweeping the heartlands of India during the prosperous 90 s Sainath s writing is hit and miss he falls back occasionally on some cliches Additionally, the book reads as what it essentially is i.e a collection of newspaper articles There is no overarching theme, other than the crushing and depressing poverty of the countryside But of course, writing is only one part of being a journalist The moral courage and tenacity to dig up truths which people prefer to ignore gives fluency even to the most rigid pen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *