The People who matter most
records the forgotten India
As a freelance journalist,
has spent the last 9 years in rural areas, coveringa number of topics related to development - caste, poverty, agriculture, etc. He spendsbetween 200 and 250 days of each year in the villages he chronicles. Royalties fromthe sale of his book
Everybody Loves a Good Drought
are used entirely to promoterural journalism, so that people in the villages can tell their own unfiltered stories.The following notes are excerpted from his talk at the Association for India's Development (AID)'s annual meeting in College Park, Maryland in late May 2001. Excerpts from the Q & A session following the talk are also included.
ou would not know that there is an agricultural crisis in India, from looking at theprint media. The growth rate of food production in India is falling, from 3.5% in the1980s to 1.8% in the 1990s. Investment in agriculture has collapsed. NSSOI (TheNational Sample Survey Organization of India) reveals that the 1990s saw the lowestlevel of employment generation since independence (less than 0.7 percent annually inrural India). Non-farm employment doubled during the 1980s, but this too isstagnating now. Rural development outlays are down, and rural credit has collapsed,leading to faster rates of land loss among marginal farmers.
, the biggest newspaper in Andhra, has its largest advertisements not fromInformation Technology companies, which despite the hype lag their counterparts inKarnataka and Tamilnadu considerably. Instead, Eenadu is filled with advertisementsfrom banks announcing the auction of the property of the small and marginal farmerswho can no longer pay their debts. 100,000 crores are owed to the banks in India.62,000 crores of that debt is from 800+ large debtors not one of whom has ever beenfollowed and prosecuted, but the jewelry and household furniture of a small farmer isauctioned for a few thousand rupees. In Rajasthan, the poor have resorted to rotatinghunger, choosing by turn members of the family who must go without food. Where isour sense of outrage?The crisis states are AP, Rajasthan and Orissa. In the single district of Anantapur, inAndhra Pradesh, between 1997 and 2000, 1800+ people have committed suicides, butwhen the state assembly requested these statistics, only 54 were listed. [see April 29and May 6 issues of The Hindu, for more details]. Since suicide is considered a crimein India, the district crime records bureaus list categories for suicide - unrequited love,exams, husbands' and wives' behavior, etc.; in Anantapur, the total from thesecategories was less than 5%. The largest number, 1061 people, were listed as havingcommitted suicide because of "stomach ache". This fatal condition results fromconsuming Ciba-Geigy's pesticide, which the government distributes free, and is