Gem of a book, deserves to be read by every Nirmanite. A book which has the power of changing our very attitude towards the poor. The title seemed too interesting for me to overlook the book. Ifelt that there was a strange mocking irony in it. But once I started reading the book, the title was as straight as possible. Just that the title was written from the point of view of the rich. I had already heard Nanda kaka (Nanda Khare) and Arun kaka (Arun Deshpande) mention it. So there was added eagerness to read it. I picked up the book, it said 'Stories from the India's poorest districts'. I started reading it and I still wonder how and when I finished this 470 pages book. To start with the book provides a well-researched, real and a heart-rending account of the condition of poor in our country. Written with lot of passion it gives daily account of the way poor manage to make a living. In a world when only dry statics are provided regarding the poor, P.Sainath paints a clear picture of the real facts which are overlooked in statistics. As one reads the book, an unavoidable anger towards the oppressor mixes with the sympathy felt towards the oppressed. Few selected photos are sparsely distributed over the book. Some of them have such great impact that they still hover in front of my eyes. P. Sainath has beautifully captured how haphazardly government project are planned, reasons behind total failure of these projects, how rich people cunningly use such government schemes/projects for their benefit and finally how some projects do more harm than good. The book is nicely divided into various sections. Primarily there are accounts of rural poor in various areas like health, education, displacement, usury and drought. Each section contains very interesting insights in the life of poor with detailed study of the reasons leading to it. Postscripts are added at regular places to suggest the changes in situation when author visited the same place after some time. The book ends with accounts when poor have fought back. Like in the entire book here also P. Sainath maintains his style of reporting stressing more on facts and not describing it as a heroic story where the good triumphs over bad. According to me all those who aspire for journalism can very well consider this book as an Ideal to follow and all those who are searching for problems to solve can find many in this book. To end with one of the very important point that is brought forward here is that the poverty is covered as events i.e. when some disaster strikes or when many people die of mal-nutrition but the process that leads to such events is largely ignored. Journalism should attack that process and not just cover the events. Now we come to how to read. 1) Firstly the book is very much captivating and I say one should read each and every part. 2) There are some repetitions of couple of lines here and there so don’t skip paragraphs as that repetition is limited to some lines only. 3) If in worst case you want to have selected reading, then the chapters ‘Still crazy after all these years’, ‘Beyond the margins’, ‘Lenders, Losers, Crooks & Credit’,’ Everybody loves a good drought’ and ‘With their own weapons’ are must read. 4) Needless to say poverty, development and press should be read just to get an idea of how much away the press is from its actual purpose. Now the question that stands in front of me, aren’t somewhere we ourselves responsible for this deviation of press from its purpose? According to me the answer is, yes we are.
- Anwar Sahib