Wednesday, February 6, 2008

P. Sainath's Lecture at DD Kosambi Meet in Goa- A Report

A report from The Hindu on P. Sainath's Lecture at the DD Kosambi Festival of Arts in Goa. (05 Feb 2008)

PANAJI: Expressing deep concern over entrenched structural inequalities in the country, P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, on Tuesday called for conscious efforts to address them lest they pose a major threat to democracy.

Mr. Sainath was delivering the second lecture at the four-day “D.D. Kosambi festival of ideas” organised here by the Art and Culture Department of the Goa government to commemorate the birth centenary of the renowned historian, mathematician and polymath.
The stark reality

Taking the audience through the great economic divide that was being perpetuated in the country, which boasts of a few billionaires whose additions to wealth could be an envy of the world’s leading economies, the Magsaysay award winner contrasted it with the stark reality — according to the National Sample Survey’s situational report on farmer households, the average expenditure of farm households is Rs.17 a month.

He said the wages of the agricultural labourer had not gone up by Rs. 40 in a decade and contrasted the situation where India had fallen further from the 124 to 128th position in the world human development index in the last 15 years.

Tracing the problem of structural inequalities in the last 15 years, which coincide with the process of liberalisation, Mr. Sainath said what was stunning was not the inequality and growth witnessed side by side, but the withdrawal of the state from the sectors that mattered to the poor. He expressed alarm at the systematic and rapid transfer of resources from the poor to the rich through steps such as slashing subsidies.

“The state is intervening more and more, but very clearly and blatantly on behalf of the corporates and rich,” he said adding the share of development expenditure of the government had gone down from 14.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product to 5.9 in recent years. He also referred to the unprecedented rise of the corporate power across the world including in India in the last decade.

Mr. Sainath was concerned at the continued rise in indebtedness among the poor — 82 per cent of the farm households in the country are in perennial debt. More worrying was the fact that as a direct consequence of entrenched inequalities, millions were moving to towns and cities in pursuit of jobs that were simply not there, eventually ending up as neither farmers nor workers.
Dig at media

Speaking about the moral matrix of inequality, the senior journalist took a dig at the media for the “growing disconnect between the reality in the country and the media’s functioning.”

Noting that resistance to the process of globalisation was going to be local, he called upon the people not to feel helpless or be passive in raising doubts about their complicity in the situation.

He lauded the people of Goa for showing a remarkable capacity to resist, standing up during their recent struggle (against special economic zones).

Maria aurora Couto, chairperson, D.D. Kosambi centenary celebrations committee, welcomed the guest, while Savia Viegas, writer and social activist, introduced Mr. Sainath.


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