- A Book review by Jatinder Handoo.
Straight from the heart of India’s one of the rarest species of Rural Journalists Magsaysay award winner Mr. Palagummi Sainath popularly known as P.sai. P.Sainath’s rare but an indispensable compendium of Socio-economic issues pertaining the most disadvantaged populace in India, “Everybody loves a good drought” published by Penguin Books -- the book is a bible for students of public policy. Author of the book Mr. P Sainath has vividly reported about (mis) formulation and (mis) implementation of public policies by various policy actors especially Sarkari babus and netas that have a direct bearing on some unfortunate Indian Junta who also live in this country of high growth rate and economic development. These people are primarily dwellers of rugged rural hinterland and associated with agriculture and allied sectors. Author has divided the book into eleven chapters and the single unified idea which he has pursued coherently in the book is failure of an efficient and need based of public policy formulation and proper implementation of policies and poverty alleviation programmes in the most backward and the poorest regions of our country. The author has obliquely raised some very banal questions about the direction in which our country has been moving in the name of development and growth especially after 1990s. P.Sainath has directly and indirectly questioned efficacy of public policies more specifically the economic policies being followed by the political leadership of this country in the name of Structural adjustment programmes and changing the so called old economic order by so called change makers Late. Mr. P.V. Narsima Rao and Mr. Manmohan Singh who surprisingly were themselves a key actor to myriad of public policies of the same old economic order which they dumped as the old and redundant in the year 1990. The author has taken support of statistical figures to buttress his argument about per capita availability of food grains and pulses and in order to convince his readers author reports that per capita availability of cereals and pulses in 1991 was 510gm but shockingly after economic reforms were initiated in 1990s per capita availability of food grains and pulses has fallen down to 461 gm. Author raises a question when millions are eating less, how does that constitute a reform? P.Sainath also questions about the model of development adopted for last sixty years, which has lead to the socio economic exclusion of the really poor and speechless communities in this country. Author has very strongly supported his arguments by mentioning specific cases particularly a case of virtually robbing poor farmers in Ramnad district of Tamil nadu state from community water resources by privatising them or case of keeping Koya tribal away from bamboo forests in malkangiri district of Orissa state and later on leasing same bamboo forests to Paper manufacturing Corporates. Mr. P.Sainath has very meticulously arranged his arguments in the form of short memoirs of his visits to convince readers about the state of shambles of rural areas in India. He has very intelligently made sarcasm on political establishment and policy makers about official celebration of poverty, agrarian crisis, backwardness, hunger, tribal status, casteism, illiteracy, absence of social security, failure of primary health services in rural countryside of Bharat.
Role of Policy Actors, Politics of Poverty and Development Business
The author has given description about various policy actors who have influenced the state of affairs and public policy formulation and implementation at grass root levels especially sarkari bubudom in the country. Other policy actors who find mention in the book are NGOs, politicians, Journalists alternate power centres in rural areas like moneylenders, govt. departments, middlemen etc. The author has also made a stark reference to the politics of poverty in India and dubious role of some corporate propped NGOs to promote obsolete technologies in the name of technology donation, harmful contraceptives and drug trials in the name of health care, even dumping of drip irrigation technologies in irrigated areas. The author mentions that development has become a money spinning business because Government has failed at various fronts.
Role of Press
In the last, the author has highlighted the role of modern Indian press in highlighting issues of social relevance, especially those with which some unfortunate, unknown, obscure human beings in some remote and the most underdeveloped terrains of this country grapple everyday. Author says that modern Indian press being a fourth pillar of democracy has a responsibility to impartially report and not merely analyse such issues. Author sarcastically mentions that the press and media today is seemingly lost in glamour of market today and developmental journalism has seemingly reduced to an idea of past but at the same time he reinstalls his faith in the capacity and prowess of the power of press to initiate an impartial nationwide debate about these issues which go unnoticed and lost in order to bring a policy level change in the system.