Stating that there has been a complete “contamination and destruction” of data pertaining to farmers’ suicide, senior journalist and founder-editor of People’s Archive of Rural India, P Sainath, on Saturday said the richest state in the country has witnessed the maximum number of farmers taking their own lives between 1995 and 2016. Sainath was speaking at the third Dileep Padgaonkar Memorial Lecture organised by Pune International Centre and Symbiosis International University.
“I am aware that I am here to speak on rural India, at a moment where urban India is offering infinitely more entertaining stories. But please note that they are dragging in rural India. They say that they are doing this for the farmers of Maharashtra… In the 3,20,000 farmer suicides that have occurred in this country between 1995 and 2016, the worse affected is the richest state of Maharashtra, with more than 66,000 farmer suicides,” said Sainath.
He said that the current generation in urban India was a foreigner in its own country as its connection with rural India— which holds 69 per cent of the entire population — has been badly eroded. “Barring a few exceptions, everybody sitting here was a villager four generations ago. We have lost the connection. It is not only sad but dangerous,” he said.
The senior journalist also spoke about the state of media in the country and how it has changed over time. He said that despite every region of the county facing the brunt of climate change, the media does not report about it.
“Good journalism is that which engages with the great processes of its time,” he said, adding that the great process that one needs to engage in is climate crisis, the socio-economic inequality in society and agrarian crisis.
“Padgaonkar said that when you shift from circulation base to advertising base, you automatically make the advertiser a million times more important than the reader…There is a huge distinction between media and journalism. Corporations have made this distinction for me. There was a time when media and journalism meant the same thing. Media is a business…journalism is a calling. The death of journalism has come with hyper commercialism,” he said.
He added, “The Centre for Media Studies (CMS) is doing less and less research, because the media is no longer interested in CMS kind of reader service and is interested in sponsorship and advertising. Therefore, they go to market research agencies and not the agencies that inquire into research…The average national daily in India gives 0.67 per cent of its front page space to rural India, for a 69 per cent of population…Why? Because this is a five year average, out of which one is election year. If you remove the election year, it comes down to 0.18 to 0.24 per cent coverage in the CMS data…”
Raghunath Mashelkar, president of PIC and SB Mujumdar, founder and president of Symbiosis Society, were also present on the occasion.