Everybody loves a good drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts by P. Sainath

The human face of poverty

The poor in India are, too often, reduced to statistics. In the dry language of development reports and economic projections, the true misery of the 312 million who live below the poverty line, or the 26 million displaced by various projects, or the 13 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.

Maybe the authors of nineteenth century fiction were more effective in expressing the reality of their times than some late twentieth century social scientists have been in capturing the reality of ours.

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 globalization in India. He spends between 270 and 300 days a year in the rural interior (in 2006, over 300 days) and has done so for the past 14 years. He is the Rural Affairs Editor for The Hindu and contributes his columns to India Together, where they are archived. 

‘ONLY THREE stories in the section on education? That’s it?’ asked a friend. There could have been a little bit more on education in this section had there been a little bit more of education in the places I went to.

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