We’re in middle of agrarian crisis, farmers’ plight worsening: P Sainath

Sainath said that the real crisis is that we are not ready to accept that we are in the middle of an agrarian crisis.

chandigarh Updated: Feb 05, 2018 21:40 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
P Sainath,agrarian crisis,Budget 2018
Senior journalist and author P Sainath speaking at the Institute of Development and Communication, Chandigarh on ‘International Conference on Governance for the Margins’ (in context of South Asia).(Anil Dayal/HT)

The country is in the middle of an agrarian crisis as we have been silently watching the plight of millions of farmers worsening by the day for nearly 20 years, senior journalist and author P Sainath said on Monday.

Sainath, who was speaking on the first day of two-day ‘International Conference on Governance for the Margins’ (in context of South Asia) organised by the Institute of Development and Communication (IDC), said the government is preparing to get out of the procurement process.

“The real crisis is that we are not ready to accept that we are in the middle of an agrarian crisis,” he observed.

Referring to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s budget announcement of giving 1.5 times the input cost to farmers, he said, “The scheme is neither practical nor effective. The current crisis is not just a crisis of water, electricity, land but a measure of the loss of humanity.”

He pointed out that in the 1960s and 1970s, the struggle for justice included even those who were not suffering and the state played an umpire’s role but it is not even pretending to be one today.

Citing the Forbes magazine’s listing that says that the number of Indian billionaires has gone up from zero in 1992 to 101 in 2017, he said India has registered the highest rate of growth in terms of inequality in the world. “While we grew in terms of number of billionaires, look at what happened to the rest of the country,” he said.

Later, he talked about disconnect between media and journalism at the Chandigarh Press Club.

“Today, the media is politically free, but imprisoned by profit,” he said.

Yesterday’s media monopolies have now become a part of today’s conglomerates,” he said adding that this was the reality, both at national and global level. “Many journalists have lost their jobs because their writings offended the powers that be,” Sainath said.

He said, the line between business interests and media houses working for each other has blurred as the corporate media house owners are among the biggest beneficiaries of any privatisation undertaken by the government.The media industry has been reduced to a bargaining chip, he said.

“Political families have entered media and its related businesses. There are no two ways about it,” he added.

69% population gets less than 1% space’

Sainath said that analysis have shown that the main stream media devotes less than 1% (.67%) of the front-page space to issues of the deprived sections, even as they form 69% of the population. In TV, he said, sponsors dictate content, further sharpening the divide between media and journalism.

Over the years, there has been a significant overlap between the media industry and the public relations (PR) industry, which has become a challenge for all the right-thinking practitioners. “The print media deserves a clear and hard-headed look,” he said.

Use internet, don’t romanticise it’

The problem with the internet is that it guarantees you a voice, but it does not guarantee that you will be heard, he said. “The biggest and nastiest monopolies in history are digital monopolies and they have one thing that no other monopoly has, your data,” he said, adding, “Use the net, don’t romanticise it.”

“Journalism, for me, still remains, one profession that draws people out on the basis of ideals; you are an idiot, if you think you can make money as a reporter,” he said.

“The future model of good journalism has to be scribes working around limitations and following idealistic journalistic practices.There has to be no government funding or corporate money involved,” he said.

First Published: Feb 05, 2018 21:36 IST