Mr. Palagummi Sainath is a passionately committed journalist who has continued to report 'rural stories' from impoverished Indian villages during the rapid changes brought about by globalization. Since establishing the 'People's Archive of Rural India (PARI)' in 2014 as a platform for digital journalism, he has been engaged in a ground-breaking project of collecting information about the diverse cultures of rural societies and in disseminating this information in diverse languages.
He was born in Chennai (former Madras), but his family was originally from Andhra Pradesh. His grandfather was the fourth President of India, V. V. Giri. Mr. Sainath studied history at Jawaharlal Nehru University with the eminent ancient historian, Professor Romila Thapar, who won the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Prize 1997.
He went into journalism, worked for the United News of India and then served as the vice-editor of a political magazine, Blitz. In the 1990s when India introduced a 'reform' from its unique mixed-economy policy, so-called Indian socialism, to a neo-liberal and market-based economy, as a freelance journalist he wrote a series of articles, 'The face of poor India' for The Times of India. His major publication, Everybody loves a good drought (1996), is a collection of 84 of these articles and was highly praised throughout the world. He was awarded the European Commission's Lorenzo Natali Prize for journalism in 1995, the Amnesty International Global Human Rights Journalism Prize in 2000, The United Nation's Food & Agriculture Organization's Boerma Prize in 2001, and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for outstanding contribution to Asian journalism in 2007.
Despite his brilliant career, Mr. Sainath's dogged approach to the pursuit of 'knowledge' has stayed unchanged. He collects information by scrupulously walking around the villages and talking to people, captures the reality in photographs and reveals the real situations of poverty and natural disasters. Between 2004 and 2014 he distinguished himself as editor for The Hindu newspaper in charge of rural issues. The documentary films, "A Tribe of His Own: The Journalism of P. Sainath" (2002) and "Nero's Guests" (2009) showed how he worked and these films gained international attention. He also served as an advisor for the federal government and state governments because of his commitment to rural reform.
Mr. Sainath also has experience of Japan. In 2003 he came as a Fellow of the Asia Leadership Fellow Program co-hosted by the Japan Foundation and the International House of Japan. He met many people, visited many places including Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima and also earned much praise for exhibitions of his major photographic works. When he returned to Japan in 2019, he visited places hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake to gather material and held lectures where he gave a passionate account of current rural issues.
He teaches at universities both in India and abroad educating the young generation about the realities of social inequality and rural society. Since last year he has been busy reporting on the rural areas which are suffering doubly from the pandemic of COVID-19 and poverty and encouraging people to help each other. For his pursuit of 'knowledge' and civic cooperation, amid the turbulence of an Asia which is undergoing drastic change, Mr. Palagummi Sainath is very deserving of the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.
Message upon Announcement of Laureates
Achievements by Laureate
Acceptance Speech at Award Ceremony
Full of Acceptance Speech at Award Ceremony
This is an incredibly proud moment for me to receive and accept the Fukuoka Grand Prize, one of the most prestigious awards that I know of. For me, it is a vindication of the social role that journalism can and ought to play. At a time in the COVID-19 pandemic when the public have needed journalism more than ever before, but the media have served the public less than ever before. Tens of thousands of journalists and non-journalist media workers have been laid off by commercial media houses who, as always, prize profits above people. In the absence of rigorous and systematic media coverage of what is happening to the health and livelihoods of the less privileged sections of society, rumor and misinformation ruled the world. So, when an award like the Fukuoka Grand Prize is given to someone like me, I see that as a vindication of a journalism that serves people, not shareholders; communities, not corporations. I will truly treasure this award. I am happy to accept and dedicate this award to fellow journalists fighting immense odds to report on and help millions of the rural, marginalized, devastated by the pandemic, whose stories need to be told. Particularly, I dedicate it to my colleagues at the 'People’s Archive of Rural India'(PARI) who continued to report from the ground on the migrants, the workers, the farmers, the landless, the artists and the artisans, the fisherfolk and the destitute. In a world witnessing the retreat of the rural everywhere, they give me hope. My sincere thanks to the people and City of Fukuoka for this great honor. Thank you.