Sainath details ‘stunning growth of inequalities’

Journalist P. Sainath speaking at National Press Day celebrations in Bidar on Friday.

Journalist P. Sainath speaking at National Press Day celebrations in Bidar on Friday.  

Journalist expresses concern over fast-widening gaps between the rich and the poor

Focusing on the constantly increasing number of Indian businessmen in the Forbes Dollar Billionaires’ List every year on the one hand and the constantly increasing number of Indian farmers committing suicides on the other, journalist P. Sainath expressed concerns over what he called the ‘stunning growth of inequalities’.

“On the one hand, as many as 3,10,000 farmers have killed themselves in 20 years between 1995 and 2015. On an average, one farmer committed suicide every 30 minutes in the 10 years between 2001 and 2011. Between 2001 and 2011, over 15 million main cultivators deserted agriculture, at a rate of 2,000 farmers for every day. On the other hand, India had not had a single dollar billionaire in 1991. The number of Indian dollar billionaires grew to 8 in 2000, 53 in 2012 and 121 in March 2018. These 121 dollar billionaires’ wealth accounts for 22% of India’s GDP. The amount of wealth that industrialist Mukesh Ambani alone added to his treasury in the last one year would be greater than what 18.7 million NREGA [National Rural Employment Guarantee Act] labourers could together earn in a year without taking a leave for a day. To match Mr. Ambani’s earnings in a year, one NREGA labourer has to work 1,87,000 years. The is the age of widening the gap between rich and poor that we are living in,” he said, and added that India ranks four on Forbes’ list of dollar billionaires whereas it’s UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Human Development Index was 130.

He was delivering a special lecture at the National Press Day celebrations here on Friday. The event was organised by Karnataka Media Academy, the Department of Information and Public Relations and Association of Editors of Small and Medium Newspapers.

‘Guerilla journalism’

Pointing to fast-withering journalistic ethics as a result of media houses turning into profit-oriented business establishments, Mr. Sainath advised journalists to always try to explore means and ways to find space within corporate-controlled media establishments to do ethical journalism. “I call it guerrilla journalism. It is a corporate media forest and we can still find some space to shed some light on the sorrows and sufferings of common people,” he said.

Admitting to the greater monopoly achieved by a few corporations on digital media, the senior journalist called upon young mediapersons to make use of the limited ‘autonomous space’ created in the digital age.

“The monopoly is greater on digital media than it is on conventional media. Google accounts for 74% of total search activities and eBay does 68% of total auctions carried out online... Yet, the Internet has created some autonomous space and we should utilise it. Don’t romanticise the Internet, but use it,” he said.

Mega water crisis

Mr. Sainath also stressed upon the need for journalists heeding the unfolding crisis caused by the uneven and discriminative distribution of available water.

“We are living in an age where a mega water crisis is unfolding. A huge amount of water is moving from villages to cities, poor to rich and agriculture to industries... Mumbai sucks a huge quantity of water from five lakes in Thane district where the indigenous people are facing severe water scarcity. While the per capita use of water is between 20 and 40 litres a day in Adivasi areas where these water sources are situated, it is between 350 litres and 500 litres in Mumbai. It is common to see swimming pools on every floor of multi-storey apartments in Mumbai. There is one such-multi-storey apartment that has 148 swimming pools... The rich have never faced water scarcity. It is the poor and rural population that is always at receiving end," he said.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 3:57:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/sainath-details-stunning-growth-of-inequalities/article25521818.ece

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