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Ramon Magsaysay Award For Journalist P. Sainath

September 2007
Ramon Magsaysay Award For Journalist P. Sainath

He is perhaps the only rural affairs editor at an English-language publication in India. Palagummi Sainath holds that position at The Hindu newspaper, for which he is also the Mumbai bureau chief. Long known for his probing, influential reports on the rural hinterlands, P. Sainath is a pioneer of sorts in Indian journalism. This year he was the sole Indian winner of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, dubbed the Asian Nobel Prize. The award citation in the category of journalism, literature, and creative communication arts recognizes Sainath's "passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India's national consciousness."���

The grandson of V.V. Giri, a former Indian president, Sainath got disillusioned with conventional journalism, which he once described as stenography for big business and the governing elite. His in-depth dispatches on the rural poor attracted wide attention, eventually leading to policy changes by the Indian government. A collection of his investigative articles, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, became a huge bestseller in India and also drew notice in other countries. As per one key finding, which he presented in the form of hard-nosed reporting, extreme deprivation was caused not by droughts but by inequality, structural inefficiency, corruption, and endemic discrimination. The economist Amartya Sen has called him "one of the world's greatest experts on famine and hunger."

Sainath used the royalties from his book, which was based on a tour of the ten poorest districts in five Indian states, to set up a fund for prizes on rural reporting. More recently, he has focused on Dalits and suicides among farmers. On occasion, Sainath has used his own money for assignments. Among other honors, he won the Boerma Jounalism Award and the Amnesty International Award. Also praised for his photojournalism, Sainath's work has been exhibited in various countries, including the United States. A 2001 documentary, A Tribe of His Own, focuses on his distinctive brand of reporting.

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