Palagummi Sainath, a journalist and a photo journalist, calls himself a “Rural Reporter”. He focuses on the rural affairs, social inequality, poverty and the lives of those affected by these phenomena. He is the Rural Affairs Editor for ‘The Hindu’. Amartya Sen, an economist himself has called him “one of the world’s greatest experts on Famine and Hunger”.
P Sainath’s documentaries “Nero’s Guests” and “Globalising Inequality” captured my attention and forced me to ponder over some facts that I had either been ignoring or was unaware of! Living in our urban shells, we never realised that ‘Farmer Suicides’ have been such a grave issue. We never realised that the inequality among the rich and the poor and in the amount of attention given to both the classes has been increasing ever since. Mr. Sainath, with his emotionally charged narration and the well researched facts and data, has been successful in spreading the awareness and the message loud and clear.
Both the documentaries highlight the fact that the ‘Beautiful people’ are given more importance in our society than the people whose hardwork results in their ‘beauty’! When hundreds of farmers were taking their lives in many parts of India, it wasn’t reported because it wasn’t seen as important. But in the same span of time, the ‘Lakme India Fashion Week’ was happening and almost all the major news channels and papers had their reporters sent there to report the event Live. When Tsunami hit 11 countries…India was one of the 5 majorly affected countries. In Nagapattinam, a small town in Tamil Nadu, nearly 30,000 houses were swept away. There was a huge loss of life and property in the coastal regions. But that year the SENSEX hit one of its historic highs! Not only in India, but, it happened with the stock exchanges of all the five countries which were the worst affected. “More the misery, better the stock exchanges did”. ‘Stock Markets’ are made the central indicators of identifying how a nation is doing. So, more the people suffer, more the stock markets boom and hence the nation is supposed to be prospering! Inequality is increasing at a brutally high rate. When there were nearly 30,000 houses being swept away due to Tsunami; at the same span of time, there were nearly 84,000 houses being demolished in the slums of Mumbai for the ‘development of the city’! The poor people didn’t even get a chance to take away their belongings (eg. Birth certificates, Marks cards, utensils etc.). Bulldozers ran on their homes and they were helpless. When the bulldozer drivers and police constables (who were giving protection to the abolishers) were interviewed, they said that they did this “weeping in their hearts” because they knew that they lived in slums too and they would be the next! This barbaric act by the Maharashtra govt. was not brought into light by the media. Many stories were killed in the newsrooms and the people were still unaware and ignorant of what was happening around them.
Mr. Sainath’s anguish and frustration are clearly visible by the tone of his speech. He is disappointed by the way ‘Inequality’ is soaring high in the society and people still… are not ready to take it seriously. His tone can be compared to that of Brutus in Julius Ceaser. He is cynical towards the indifference of the Media, the Government and the People, who are working as the factors of increasing ‘INEQUALITY’ and degrading the lives of the poor for their convenience. The title “Nero’s guests” is a direct indication to the people…to us! We are being ‘Nero’s guests’ by letting the farmers and the poor people live in misery and ‘burn at stake’. Mr. Sainath has asked a direct question and has given a choice to his audience and to everyone that whether they want to be as heartless, indifferent and self involved as ‘Nero’s guests’ or not! He wants us to understand the reality and face it…not run away from it. Mr. Sainath’s documentaries give us a better understanding of the Real face of the fast growing economies. He has put forth a question on the field he himself works in. He is saddened by how today’s media is functioning, which sees only Profit!
Media directs our thought process and the way we look at the world. It shows us the ‘GLAMOUR’ and the news it feels would sell! It is becoming a major factor for driving people away from the reality. It gives us the ‘BREAKING NEWS’ and we happily adhere to it. Our way of thinking is being conditioned and it is not wholly Media’s fault. We have become indifferent to the reality ourselves! We enjoy the spiced up news but don’t have the strength to face or listen to the brutal reality.
- - Mohita Munot