Journalism today has completely failed the Lokmanya’s criteria for journalism, P. Sainath said on January 4, on the occasion of the 136 th anniversary of the Kesari in Pune, where he received the Lokmanya Tilak National Journalism Award.
During the British raj, the prati sarkar, a parallel government in the then vast Sangli district, robbed the government’s treasury to give money back to the people, he said. But the government today has robbed the common people by forcing demonetisation on everyone; it grants a rebate of Rs. 5 lakh crores to the economic elites but does not have money to exempt farmers’ debts.
For the last 10 years, Maharashtra ranks first in farmers’ suicides, data of the National Crime Records Bureau shows. But there is a huge difference between the NCRB’s numbers and those claimed by the government – which declares bogus figures in order to give the minimum compensation. One farmer in Maharashtra commits suicide every three hours, Sainath said (and one every 30-35 minutes in India). Though the government claims that the numbers have decreased, that is far from the reality. While the crisis is growing, no action has been taken against someone like Vijay Mallya, who owes Rs. 9,000 crores to the country. But a common farmer is forced to take his life for a debt of just Rs. 90, 000.
When Lokmanya Tilak was imprisoned for six years. Sainath pointed out, the ‘big shots’ of the time did not bother to protest; it was the common mill workers who protested and supported Tilak on the streets of Mumbai.
Sainath spoke at length about the persistent agrarian crisis, inequality in the country, the numerous difficulties caused by demonetisation, and the government’s double standards.
He said that he is hopeful that these depressing realities can be addressed through the medium of journalism.
The award ceremony was chaired by Kesari’s trustee-editor and vice chancellor of Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Dr. Deepak Tilak. Executive editor of Kesari, Sukrut Khandekar introduced Sainath. Kesari’s news editor, Swapnil Pore, anchored the event.
Adapted from a report in the Kesari on January 5, 2017