In a 34-year career as a journalist, Sainath — the former Rural Editor of the Hindu –– has won over 40 global and national awards for his reporting (and turned down several, including the Padma Bhushan because, in his view, journalists should not be receiving awards from governments they cover and critique). He is the winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2007, for Journalism Literature and Creative Communications Arts. He was the first reporter in the world to win Amnesty International’s Global Human Rights Journalism Prize in its inaugural year in 2000. He was also the first Indian reporter to win the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Prize for human rights journalism in 1995. Apart from the 40 plus print media awards, two documentary films on his work, ‘Nero’s Guests’ and A Tribe of his Own,’ have between them picked up over 20 awards across the globe.
His latest award, which he received this January 27th, is the World Media Summit Global Award for Excellence 2014. He won its Public Welfare award for exemplary news professionals in developing countries, taking the WMS prize in its inaugural year.
On June 1, 2015, Sainath became the first ThoughtWorks Chair Professor in Rural India and Digital Knowledge at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. He is also the holder of the Coady Chair in Social Justice at the University of St. Francis Xavier, Nova Scotia, Canada. He continues to have his home and base in Mumbai while working most of the year in rural India.
Sainath’s book Everybody Loves a Good Drought (Penguin India, 1996) has remained a non-fiction bestseller by an Indian author for years and was declared a Penguin Classic in 2012. In just the past few years, he has published well over 150 investigative reports on India’sagrarian crisis in The Hindu alone, the largest journalistic body of work ever on India’s farming communities. Many of those, stories from the households of marginal farmers and landless labourers across the country. He takes his own photographs for all his reports. Since November 2001, an exhibition of Sainath’s photographs has toured India, seen by well over half a million people to date. The exhibit, Visible Work, Invisible Women: Women & Work in Rural India mixes text with visuals and brings home the astonishing but unacknowledged contribution that poor rural women make to the national economy.
Sainath is also a teacher who has trained well over 1,000 mediapersons across 27 years. His last full-time stint was as McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University Fall (2012). He teaches journalism every year at the Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai and the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai (where he teaches in the course: Covering Deprivation).
His latest project, the People’s Archive of Rural India launched on Dec. 20, 2014. It aims at capturing the ‘everyday lives of everyday people’ – their labour, languages, livelihoods, arts, crafts and many other aspects of rural India. This will be a platform that combines video, audio, still photography and print. Public access to the archive will be free. So the reporter, author, photographer, teacher and public speaker now enters yet another arena.
Sainath is perhaps the most influential voice in the public discourse on agriculture, in particular with his ground-breaking work on farmer suicides. Close to 300,000 impoverished Indian farmers — many driven by indebtedness — have taken their own lives in less than two decades since 1995. That is the largest wave of suicides in recorded history. Sainath was the journalist who first established the scale of the disaster, locating it within a larger — policy-driven — agrarian crisis afflicting the peasantry. In this, as in his previous work, Sainath sets the agenda for investigative rural reporting. The agrarian crisis series has seen more impact amongst lawmakers, courts and the reading public than any other work on the subject.
For 20 years, he has spent, on average, 270 days a year in the Indian countryside. A story by Sainath on the struggles of the dalit miners of the Kolar Gold Fields is set to appear this July in the book “Global Muckraking: 100 years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World” (New Press, New York).
This blog aims to create a slowly growing archive some of his best work in journalism as well as provide an ongoing platform for even more diverse expression.