Sainath's discussion and a dinner are scheduled from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Monday, April 17, in B17 Hackerman, Homewood campus. Facebook event
Sainath's book Everybody Loves a Good Drought (Penguin India, 1996) has remained for years a nonfiction bestseller by an Indian author and was declared a Penguin Classic in 2012. In the past few years, he has published well over 150 investigative reports on India's agrarian crisis in The Hindu alone, the largest journalistic body of work ever on India's farming communities. He takes his own photographs for all his reports. Since November 2001, an exhibition of Sainath's photographs has toured India, seen by well over half a million people to date. The exhibit, Visible Work, Invisible Women: Women & Work in Rural India mixes text with visuals and brings home the astonishing but unacknowledged contribution that poor rural women make to the national economy.
Sainath is also a teacher who, over 27 years, has trained well over 1,000 people who work in media. His last full-time stint was as McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University in fall 2012. He teaches journalism every year at the Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai ,and the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.
His latest project, the People's Archive of Rural India, launched on Dec. 20, 2014. It aims at capturing the "everyday lives of everyday people"—their labor, languages, livelihoods, arts, crafts, and many other aspects of rural India. This will be a platform that combines video, audio, still photography, and print. Public access to the archive will be free. So the reporter, author, photographer, teacher, and public speaker now enters yet another arena.
Sainath is perhaps the most influential voice in the public discourse on agriculture, in particular with his groundbreaking work on farmer suicides. Close to 300,000 impoverished Indian farmers—many driven by indebtedness—have taken their own lives in less than two decades since 1995. That is the largest wave of suicides in recorded history. Sainath was the journalist who first established the scale of the disaster, locating it within a larger—policy-driven—agrarian crisis afflicting the peasantry. In this, as in his previous work, Sainath sets the agenda for investigative rural reporting. The agrarian crisis series has seen more impact among lawmakers, courts, and the reading public than any other work on the subject.
For 20 years, he has spent, on average, 270 days a year in the Indian countryside. A story by Sainath on the struggles of the dalit miners of the Kolar Gold Fields is set to appear this July in the book Global Muckraking: 100 years of Investigative Journalism From Around the World (New Press, New York).