P. Sainath, who calls himself, as ‘rural reporter’ has been the most irreverent and committed journalist in India today. “Everybody Loves a Good Drought” is a collection of essays of poverty and degradation in the poorest states in India, from the pen of a man Amartya Sen has aptly identified as India’s greatest expert on famine. His writing is angry and passionate, but always clear. The book comprises of stories of arrogant officials who insist that they know better than the very natives who had lived in an area for years; the mass sterilization of perfectly good cattle, already adapted to the environment, in order to make way for a so-called “super cattle”, which turns out to be useless; or the mass uprooting of millions of people to make way for useless dams.
There are some positive stories too. Sainath tells of how groups of women have gotten together and formed organized labor, and which do a better, more efficient work than the more ‘sophisticated’ industries and companies. The book tells a story which is a shocking indictment of the India that should have been. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the India that does not make it onto the covers of coffee table books and glossy magazines.
Over 320 million people still live below the poverty line in India and Sainath, through years of work in the field, details their plight. He brings to light that hunger is but a single element of poverty–one might meet the minimum caloric intake to be considered “above the poverty line”, while in truth living in a state of real poverty.
The stories of India’s 80 million tribal and indigenous people, Adivasis, are heart wrenching and fantastic–such stories cannot be found in mainstream publications.
If this book has a weakness, it is in its repetition of account upon account of despair without offering potential solutions to alleviate the crisis. A great companion book to this excellent work would be Abraham George’s “India Untouched: The Forgotten Face of Rural Poverty”, which examines the crisis of poverty and offers realistic and practical solutions that have been implemented.
Mr. Sainath captures the plight, hopes, and loss in rural villages in India. Farmers are committing suicide at an unprecedented rate. People are trying to adjust but the hope is lost. With the recent hype of globalization and the changes transpiring in India, the myth that poverty has been eradicated, or is at least receding in India has pervaded, or is at least receding in India has pervaded the realities of rural poverty in India. Gritty, no-nonsense, Sainath avoids sensationalism and sticks to the facts through well-researched accounts of the living conditions of what is, in truth, a majority of Indians.