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Different quotes from Sainath's work that I found interesting

Well, I would like to tell you the rat race is over. The rats have won.— P. SainathLecture: The Importance of Citizen Journalism

Growing insensitivity is often the baggage of deepening inequality.— P. SainathDregs Of Destiny

If we draw a baseline in the last Ice Age, everyone’s conditions have improved.— P. SainathDregs Of Destiny

Read the press on rural India. You’ll be struck by the fact that—in the press—the rural poor almost never speak. They invariably ‘lament’ or ‘plead’ or ‘cry’ or ‘beg’ for attention. Sometimes, they even ‘wail’ or ‘weep’. They rarely just ‘say’ things the way the rest of us do. Because we have decided that that is the way they are.— P. Sainath,Dregs Of Destiny

How agonized we are over how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live.— P. SainathGlobalizing Inequality

As famous last words, those rank along side the Tarzan’s “Who greased the grapevine?”— P. SainathGlobalizing Inequality

Then there are the ideologically insane. The members of the sect have no interest in either farmers or agriculture. Only in upholding their Gospel.For them, farmers are dying because they have not been reached by free market reforms. If more of them keep dying after they are reached, it’s because the “reforms have not gone far enough.” It hangs a halo of righteousness around wanton ignorance.— P. Sainath


I am not putting these P. Sainath transcripts up because I'm out of typing assignments, but because I think he is bringing up something vital that people need to listen to. And because I think his styles and focus of writing and lecturing differ enough for it to be useful.

Several people counseled me about his ignorance, and my gullibility among other condescending ways of calling me stupid. I am not going to debate opinions, but sharing the value I see. What you choose to do with it is not my business. This is a special post for you supersmart people in particular. So listen up:

I "marry" no one. My game is ideas. If an idea works for me, it works for me. If it doesn't, it doesn't. There are things he said I don't agree with. And I'm glad. Never had an ambition to be a hive mind.

His ideas work for me, because, like me, he's into seeing patterns. Patterns are useful, because you get an idea where they are going, and they help you understand what is coming up. Unlike me, he has astonishing statistics to provide insight - and a laser sharp brain to work with them.

You give me data, insight and clarity of analysis like that, and I'll transcribe your phone call. That's a promise. No matter what your name is.

I see his work as crucial for people to think about, because it illustrates in an indirect way, three recurring concerns of mine - existential concerns - for our country and our world too, perhaps. And these have nothing to do with capitalism. It is more primitive. It is cannibalism.

Those concerns are:

People in power have no intention of safeguarding those not in power.

Sainath did not say this. I am saying it. I have been saying this for a long time.

Sainath has presented data about the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. Data that fits in seamlessly with my understanding of the mental dynamics taking place.

What about the real people whose country will get richer and but they starve anyway? Is a country about numbers or people? That, I think is the real question here. Or rather, who we consider as people and who not.

This is like the Rime of the Ancient Mariner - "water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink". Only a few of the Indians are able to drink at that impressive - and until recently growing - number. The rest are told that there is plenty of water. What is more, there are arrangements for more water being made - the poor thirsty man already can't comprehend the scope of the sea - but these arrangements of water are also in a way they cannot drink. They will die in that sea just as dead as they would be in the desert.

P. Sainath outlines bluntly how this draining is happening. He shows the many ways in which the elites collude to deny prosperity to others. Or rather, grab the large chunk of everyone's prosperity for themselves. He gives you facts you can verify. If you value information, it is not such a great idea to dismiss it because you don't like hearing it.

A mistake happens once, and if it is a mistake, it gets watched out for and corrected. Sainath is throwing on the table hard data on twenty years of agrarian distress. When a mistake is not corrected, it is called convenient. Or more bluntly, intent.

But this is still Sainathish. Try this - Classic Vidyut:

In any group the weakest members are the first to manifest problems, but the decay of the system is all pervading and spreads.

Let's not talk money at all. Let's not talk poor, farmers, etc - that would be me being brainwashed, no?

Crimes against women. They are rising. People with authority are shrugging, saying women are not covering themselves. They didn't tell that to the tribals in Andaman where women are made to dance naked in front tourists for the reward of food - by? Cops. Yep. You got that right.

The slutwalk Gejje Hejje got denied permission because of security concerns by a right wing group. Now, in theory, you arrest people for making threats against other people. Instead, the organizers were arrested in spite of complying completely with the last minute cancellation. The people making threats? Nope.

Andhra Pradesh. 3,807 rape cases in NCRB's latest dump. In every case. In each and every case the offender was known to the victim. Guess what DGP of Andhra Pradesh said? The problem is food and women's clothes.

To me, the underlying process with the farmers and the rapes is the same. It is the same for brutal suppression of protests. It is the same for corruption. It is the same for atrocious health-scare. A culture of arbitrary and selfish application of power that belongs to all combined with a paranoia of inconvenience or unpredictability. Where destroying another is better than losing the conditions for easy gain.

Do you know what it says when people with the power to change things lack the inclination? It means they are fine with it. No matter what they claim. They do not anticipate this problem harming them, and they do not wish to take on the challenge and risk of tackling it. So they invent reasons why it cannot be fixed by them. Once enough people are gone, it will be your turn, unless you manage to exploit someone else into the pit in your place.

Now apply all this to farmers, to healthscare, to education - every area that can go wrong is reeling under this exact same thing - because the people in the system are the same, and an attitude is central to the personality - manifests similarly in all situations.

But here's why the government needs to sit up and take notice fast. To steal Sainath's term, it is "unraveling". You don't need me to explain this. You are seeing the cracks in the "All is Well" facade, the scams, the anger, the anxiety for survival in terms of necessities in the face of inflation, the frustration that you feel. You don't need me to tell you what you feel, what you see.

Status quo is not enough anymore.

Things are reaching a tipping point

Confrontations are beginning. Protests are increasing, brutal suppressions are increasing. It is soon going to be a face-off.

Sainath throws in overwhelming statistics of the connection between hunger and unrest. I had earlier brought up the question of a possible connection between the economy and fasts becoming more popular and connected it with an unconscious perception of scarcity that makes the sacrifice of food for the greater good look extra-noble. The bottom line is that scarcity, hunger, inflation and lack of attention are getting people to confront governments like never before.

Right now, our youth are the most of our population

Population growth is slowing. In twenty, thirty years from now, there is going to be a steady increase in lots of old people and lesser young people to provide for them. Considering that the divide between rich and poor is still growing, we are going to have the vast majority of our population really poor and without support in their old age. Compute that.

As I like to keep reminding, unless your income is incrementing faster than inflation, that's your destination too.


Some other things you guys brought up.

Why are you putting up Sainath's work and not Arundhati's? Is this not misogyny?

I am not putting up Sainath's work because he is a man. I am putting it up because I value the ideas in it. I think she nails the psychological dynamics of inequality in her diagnosis but fails to convey it in her hurry to conclude with blame. I have written a lot about Arundhati here, and there are actually a few posts planned around some of the diagnoses she throws in without explaining.

But for content to come up here on the blog, it has to fit the blog's ethics. The same rules that are for me, for guest writers are for transcripts. This blog deals largely with thinking about the social, political, national space. If something brings insight, shows a new way of understanding a situation, it is a big YES. Anything that diminishes independent thought is a NO.

The reason is that it may come from a great thought, from a great source, but it stupidifies the reader. I refuse to spread that. It is the essence of brainwashing, and suicide for a blog that hopes to encourage independent thinking.

So, unless Arundhati is able to blame specific actions of the government or specific actions of the "Hindu Brahmin" club or at the very least supply the reasoning that defines it and that walks the uninitiated reader to that conclusion, I am not going to be able to post her exact words here.

Similarly for Taslima Nasreen. She has a knack for throwing on the table the unconscious stereotypes, attitudes and biases in society flat out. In my eyes, she nails the collective unconscious [a la Jung]. With my interest in unconscious psychology, she is hands down more fascinating than both Sainath and Arundhati - on a different subject - and she is a woman. But without the reasoning that will allow any reader to understand it, I can't post her words here either. Though I would recommend psychology magazines to do it.

Sainath is clean - in the sense of respecting the receivers autonomy in thinking. No attempts to force conclusions. No unsubstantiated anything. He is way cleaner than I am. That is why, his work is here. It demonstrates a way of looking at the world differently, more accurately, from how we see it. Of fact based thinking you can rely on. Of disengaging from the overwhelmingly evident enough to be able to see nuances. It isn't only about poverty and hunger and inequality. It is about thinking agilely, of seeking information to understand situations better.

And the difference is manifested in the world. See the quality of discourse between those who like and dislike Arundhati, and those who like and dislike Sainath. Whose ideas do you find resulting in new ideas? Whose ideas become about like or dislike of the person?

Liking or disliking someone is not useful to others. Whether you like, or dislike.

To end,

Clarity in me evokes clarity in you.

A lecture at University of Texas, Austin by P. Sainath, sponsored by the University of Texas School of Journalism, the South Asia Institute, AID-Austin and the Society of Professional Journalists UT.

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5

So they set up a second commission. The N C Saxena, BPL expert group. I was one of the experts. And it was wonderful, it was scintillating. Some of the expert discussions we had were riveting. 17 guys in a room, in a government building, in an air conditioned room, 17 guys - I emphasize guys - there wasn't a single woman - had a heated debate for hours on whether women are poor.

[addressing someone in audience] Don't look so shocked, finally we decided that you were, because three of us held out boldly. Our argument - the three of us were arguing that in rural India, women headed households have to be automatically declared below poverty line. There is no need of a survey. All the evidence of the NSF and other studies show us that.

The secretary of one of the biggest departments of the Government in India attacked me saying that "Oh, then tomorrow I may also declare that my household is female headed." Actually, I think it would be a damn good idea if his household were female headed. His wife has certainly a lot more brain than he does.

19% of Indian rural households are female headed. That's the official census figure of the last census. However, in areas like Anantpur, Kalahandi, where migrations are large, the percentage of female headed households crosses 50%.

At least we were an improvement over the previous census. You know how they used to count whether women were poor or not? They had actually a sheet - a mark sheet. 1 Sari household. 1-2 saris. 2-3 saris. What happens if the household has six girls? They'd be wealthy.

I'm not saying that was the sole indicator, but it was certainly... we saw that sheet. I had never known of this until I was a member... anyway, unfortunately for the government of India, we decided that 50% of the population were below the poverty line, which infuriated them. It infuriated me also, because I agreed with the first report, therefore the biggest annexure in this report is my note of dissent.

Third commission, Dr. Suresh Tendulkar. Classic champion of neoliberalism and he gives a figure 14% higher than the Government of India. So this is what has happened in four years time on rural poverty. He is saying 42% for rural poverty.

For rural poverty, the Government of India says about 34. Government of India's overall percentage is 27. Tendulkar places it higher, and he places rural poverty at 42%.

So even their handpicked commissions are telling them that the situation has got much worse.

I will leave you with one thing. All of you.. all the Indians here know of Ajanta and Ellora Caves? Do you know how you go there? You go there via a town called Aurangabad.

Aurangabad is one of the poor part of Marathwada, which is one of the poorest regions of the state of Maharashtra.

The per capita income of this region is much lower than the state average, much lower than the National average. State average in this case is higher than the National average. But there is incredible money to be made.

What did we begin with? With Warren Buffett's buying opportunity. When there is that much misery, there is incredible amount of money to be made. A handful of businessmen are walking into the Guiness Book of records. Did you read about it?

In October 2010, the biggest sale made by Mercedez Benz on a single day, to a single group. A hundred and fifty Mercedez Benz were bought in a couple of hours by a group of businessmen in one of the poorer parts of the country.

You read about it, right?

Do you know who paid the money for it? What it wasn worth? SBI covered most of the loan. SBI is the biggest - in terms of branches, maybe - the biggest bank in the world. State Bank of India is a Nationalized, public sector bank and it gave them interest rate of 7%. Out of the 640 million rupees that the deal cost, it gave them 440 million rupees. Most of those guys are politically connected, they will never repay that loan... we know them personally. They will not repay the loan.

Now the rival town of Kolhapur in Western Maharashtra is planning to buy 150 BMWs. Why? Why should they be? They are making a lot of Germans very happpy.

Look at the fact, that the same bank, which gave a 7% interest loan on a Mercedes Benz charges 14% interest in the same branch of the bank, for a farmer buying a tractor.

And the cost of a tractor is much less. A hell of a lot less. It's about half a million rupees. About 6 hundred thousand rupees max for a good one. I mean that's what you'll get as a max as a loan anyway.

Look at this. 7% for Mercedes Benz, 14% for a tractor and if you're a poor woman, enjoying that wonderful myth and romance of micro finance, what is the interest rate you pay there? 36%

Thirty-six percent!

It is that SFGs and MFIs - Microfinance systems lend to them and the rates are typically between 24 to 36%. Very often there are concealed costs. The microfinance miracle was started by poor women two decades ago. It's now completely hijacked by the corporations. The same banks, bureaucracies and money lenders whom they sought to avoid. Citibank is a big force in microfinance. ICICI is a big force in microfinance. World Bank, Government of India, State Bank of India are a big force in microfinance. By the time the interest rate goes through major intermediaries and reaches that woman in the village, its 36%.

Andhra Pradesh has brought legislation to curb racketeering by... and many of the farm suicides in Andhra Pradesh in 2010 were linked to microfinance because their repossession methods are worthy of credit card sharks. This is the kind of level... this is the kind of situation that they are facing.

How has it come about? What can you do about it?

I believe in the last 20-25 years, the packages of economic policies have been entirely McDonalds packages. They taste the same everywhere. Whether in India or the United States.

Very briefly these processes.

  1. The withdrawal of the State from sectors that matter to poor people. The state hasn't faded away, it has become more interventionist than before, but it withdraws from sectors that matter to poor people.
  2. Imposition of user fees and charges on people who can't afford it.
  3. The privatization of just about everything. Including intellect and soul. You know twenty years ago, I used to be very curious about this term public intellectual. What's a public intellectual. Now I figured that I am, because the rest have gone private. So those of us who haven't been sold to a corporation, we are public intellectuals. It somehow gives us a certain noble transcendence. Doesn't help one bit though.
  4. and this is central to what has happened in the last 30 years - the untrammeled, unrestrained rise of corporate power. Whether it's water, whether it's food, whether it's banks, whether it's newspapers corporations run the world. They run governments. They run your life.

The subordinance of local governments and elected governments and elected representatives, by corporations, by corporate power and through bypassing ... the biggest ambition... you know for many years, I've been teaching at the IAS academy, the Lal Bahadur Shastri academy in Mussourie - where we train people for the Indian Administrative Serive. Last two years, somehow I haven't gone, because I've been too tied down, but I've been doing that since 95. You run there into probationers with all the idealism young people have. Some of them become excellent collectors, but ten years down the line, everyone has one ambition - how to get deputed to World Bank or to IMF. That is the ambition.

So you're having a complete subordining of the government processes. Incidentally the Prime Minister of India, the head of our Planning Commission, all are former World Bank, IMF Employees. Yes. Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia - all of them. They draw pensions from the world bank. Do you know that? Go and read their CVs.

Here's the good news for you. It's unraveling. It's unraveling and not just on the Arab Street. The 2008 - the meltdown in 2008 didn't begin in 2008, it did not end in January 2010. A hundred countries have had their meltdowns, but only when it hits the suits on Wall Street you call it a crisis.

When it hits the big boys, then it is a crisis. If it just wipes out thousands of and hundreds and thousands of farms... in Minnesota, Okhlahoma, and other mid-Western states of the United States. That's not a crisis. it's when it hurts the corporations that it becomes a crisis. The fact is it's unraveling, they don't know what to do about it. They have no clue. they seem to be in charge, they seem to be in command, military power is the answer of course to everything that they do, but they are just not in control anymore. It's not just the Arab street.

People are protesting, things are unraveling.

Two conditions are fulfilled. The ruled are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way. The rulers are not able to rule in the old way.

How we take it from there... I hope you and I will find a way of agreeing on what to do.


A video by P. Sainath describing the plight of farmers.


India is indebted to this man. We must do something to fix this. Tragic.

Here is a poem from the video.

मी आगळा एगळा
माई न्यारीच जिन्दगानी
माझं मरण भी आहे
खरं अवगनी पाणी

मले हरीक माय कवितेचा
काळ्या जमीनीतला काऊस
त्याच्या मुळील गोडवा
गोड उसाच्या पेराचा

मला मरण आले कुणी
मला दिलियेला देह
टांगता ठेवला
जसा फुलोर्यातला कान्होला

rough translation

I am different
My life is different
My death is also
Like an untimely rain

I love green poetry
[I am] Cotton that grows from black soil
With sweet roots
Like a sugarcane stem

When I die
The body given to me
Is left to hang
Like a decoration

- Late Shri Krishna Kalamb Farmer, poet.