Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s poorest districts

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Palagummi Sainath is a Mumbai based freelance journalist. His work on rural poverty won him several accolades and fellowships including the prestigious European Commission’s journalism award, the Lorenzo Natali prize. He has been a visiting lecturer in journalism, development and politics at universities in India, Canada, U.S, Europe and Australlia. He is rural affairs editor for Hindu, writes for the fortnightly Frontline and contributes his columns to India Together. This particular book won him the Magsaysay award.

 

P.Sainath spends around 260-300 days in a year visiting rural areas and has witnessed numerous rural issues such as poverty, poor quality of education, unemployment, development, bureaucracy and the inability of the government to provide basic needs to the families in rural areas in these visits. “Everybody Loves Good Drought” is an account of these rural issues which the author witnessed and experienced in his visits. It contains stories from various districts that depict the lives of millions of Indians and the severe penury they face.

 

People who figure in this book typify the lives and aspirations of a large section of the Indian society whose needs are still to be addressed by the government. Unfortunately, even after 62 years of independence the situation in rural areas remains poor and people are precarious about their future. The book lays great emphasis on the incompetence of the government in tackling the enormity of the situation. We also get to see how the poorest of the poor manage to live and what sustains them in a situation that can be termed as a great social crisis.

 

This book points towards the erroneous government policies and lack of its proper implementation to be responsible for much of the rural distress. At the end of the day, even the best government policies may be futile if they are not implemented properly. It is like mopping the floor keeping the tap open. For example- The author talks about the government policy of spending 6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education. The Government till date has never spent more than 4% of its GDP on education. But this 4% amounts to several crores of rupees with the help of which politicians and other bureaucrats run lucrative scams which help them to mint money. Hence, proper implementation is essential for success of any policy. “Universal primary education to all”, a government promise, continues to be a farce. It also describes certain bizarre situations such as abundance of hospitals but lack of doctors, abundance of primary schools but lack of teachers and proper infrastructure, abundance of land and natural resources but little or no access to the rural poor. Lack of commitment from the government towards improving these situations continues to act as a deterrent in the process of growth of rural areas. The book also digs deep into the horrible plight of the tribal groups. It gives us a deep insight about lack of protection under law for these tribals. As a result, indiscrimination against them seems to be inevitable. The author describes the enormity of the situation by stating facts and figures that are appalling. It is a book bristling with vigorous humanity and awakening the conscience of today’s youth who are going to be the policy makers in the years to come.

 

It is definitely not a book a reader would read with bated breath. It is not a book that contains great horror or suspense. But it is a book that contains journalism of the highest order: pointed and well researched and truly deserves the widest readership. It is a book that has raised the awareness of millions and millions of people about the scourge of rural distress. After reading this book and understanding the miserable situation that confronts the rural poor I feel I can make the difference. Do you also feel the same?

 

Keshav Parthasarathy

[Image source:http://www.adpc.net/IRC06/Newsletter/2002/07-09/images/book.jpg]

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