In India, a farmer takes his own life every 33 minutes because of the rise of corporations and the systemic problems in the country’s agriculture, said journalist P. Sainath during a talk Tuesday.
Sainath, a rural journalist for an English-language newspaper called The Hindu in India, told a group of around 50 people about the failure of mass media to report and analyze economic inequality in India during a lecture at the Flawn Academic Center.
The Association for India’s Development Austin and Austin-based online magazine Nazar sponsored the event and opened the lecture with a presentation about their current agenda to spread adequate news across Texas. They also emphasized their support of a variety of social-development projects and campaigns that empower the lives of poor and underprivileged people in India.
UT journalism professor Bob Jensen introduced P. Sainath, gave background on his award-winning career and shed light on his work of reporting the epidemic of farmers dying by suicide in India as a result of the collapse of the rural economy.
“Sainath has done groundbreaking work on the effect of the global economy on the lives of ordinary people rural India, and is one of the best journalists not only in India, but around the world,” Jensen said.
During his lecture, Sainath discussed the strong links that media and corporations have, using an example of General Electric’s failure to pay taxes last year and NBC’s failure to report on it.
“Mainstream media is a small part of much larger conglomerates of corporations, and the media has a structural compulsion to lie on particular issues,” Sainath said. “They are too heavily invested in the market to ever tell the truth about it.”
He said in the U.S., family farms go bankrupt each week.
“Corporate farming, while it is huge, employs hardly anyone,” Sainath said. “There are 700,000 people employed in corporate agriculture. Even prisons hold three times as many people.”
Sainath said the Indian media need to rethink their priorities and raise issues that matter the most.
“Corporations run the world, they run the government and they run your life,” Sainath said.
Cell and molecular biology graduate student Sucheta Arora, a member of the development association, said Sainath’s lecture provided perspective she doesn’t hear in the mainstream media.
“Media needs to focus on things that actually matter and be free from corporate control,” Arora said.