After PM’s advisor Naresh Jadhav attacked Magasaysay-winning journalist over his report on Vidarbha farmers, P Sainath retaliates with an equally vitriolic counter attack
Posted On Sunday, September 14, 2008
Picking up the gauntlet thrown by the PM’s economic advisor and Pune University vice-chancellor Naresh Jadhav, Magasaysay award-winning journalist P Sainath on Saturday tore into him for his claims that the farmers’ plight in Vidarbha is not as bad as it has been made out and said that the V-C was running a ‘rent-a-report’ service for the state government.
As head of the one-man committee appointed by the state government to study the benefits of the Prime Minister’s relief package for Vidarbha farmers, Jadhav had said in his report that Sainath was painting an alarmist picture of Vidarbha and had ‘defamed’ the state by doing so.
Speaking to Mumbai Mirror from Norway, where he is attending an international conference, Sainath didn’t mince words, saying Jadhav’s report was just a ‘whitewash job for the state government’.
“How can criticising a state government mean criticism of the state,” said Sainath, the author of Everyone Loves A Good Drought who had described Maharashtra as a ‘graveyard for farmers’.
“He is running a rent-a-report service. His report is nothing but a whitewash job for the state government. He says Maharashtra is not the worst state, but only the fourth or fifth worst state in the country as far as farmers’ suicides are concerned. He is like a child who tells his father that he is not the last in the class, but fourth or fifth last,” said Sainath.
“Maharashtra is the only state where farmers are addressing their suicide notes to the CM and the PM. In Andhra, they wrote about policies, banks, moneylenders and others, but not the government. Here, they are telling the government we are killing ourselves because of you,” he said.
“In Maharashtra, we are putting our farmers in the pressure cooker and cooking them. And our CM says and I quote, ‘farmers should be grateful I am not prosecuting them as suicide is a crime’,” he added.
The veteran journalist added that contrary to Jadhav’s claims, the Maharashtra government had failed on every parameter, especially under Vilasrao Deshmukh’s leadership. Jadhav had claimed in his report that Sainath had used wrong parameters to
indict the state government.
“The National Crime Records Bureau statistics show that one-fifth of 1.66 lakh farmers’ suicides between 1997 and 2005 were in Maharashtra. Is this figure something to be proud of?” Sainath asked, adding that the farmers’ plight in Vidarbha was the worst in 2006, a year after the prime minister and the chief minister announced separate relief packages.
“The year witnessed the highest ever number of farmers committing suicides since we started keeping records. Of the 17,060 farmers who committed suicides in the country, 4,453 were from the state, which is almost one-fourth. These figures are never rivalled by any other state. The closest figure was in 2004 – around 4,100 ― and guess which state it was? Maharashtra, sadly,” he pointed out.
Countering Jadhav’s claims that Sainath chose wrong states (with less population to compare with Maharashtra), the journalist said even the population parameter didn’t save any grace for the state.
“The increase in the number of suicides (527) in 2006 was four-and-half-times that of Andhra Pradesh that recorded 117 more suicides than in 2005. Is Andhra four-and-half-times more populous than Maharashtra?” he asked.
“It’s amazing that after committee after committee found the situation in Vidarbha grave, Jadhav absolved the government. “The reports by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi Institute for of Developmental Studies, the Planning Commission, NABARD team, state investigators have been more adverse than the previous.
And whatever the parameters or ratings, 34,000 farmers committing suicides…is this something to be proud of?” he asked.
Pained that he was being painted as enemy of the state, Sainath said that if that was what he would get for telling the truth, then he wore it like a badge of honour.
Jadhav could not be contacted for his comments despite repeated attempts.