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Everybody Loves a Good Drought

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,378 ratings  ·  196 reviews
The human face of poverty

The poor in India are, too often, reduced to statistics. In the dry language of development reports and economic projections, the true misery of the 312 million who live below the poverty line, or the 26 million displaced by various projects, or the 13 million who suffer from tuberculosis gets overlooked. In this thoroughly researched study of the
Paperback, 470 pages
Published October 14th 2000 by Penguin India (first published 1996)
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Nandakishore Varma
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, india
My friends... I am devastated. Shaken to the core by what happens in my beloved country. Ashamed to eat three square meals a day, and call myself Indian, when in parts of India children die like flies due to malnutrition and preventable diseases.

The fact that I am a cog in the machine which contributes to this disaster we call "development" rankles still further.

Review to come... after I recover.


Well, I think I have recovered sufficiently to do an
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In this country:
To read this book is a privilege.
To read this book written in English, is a privilege.
To buy this book is a privilege.
To read this book at night under lights, is a privilege.
To read this book in my home, is a privilege.
To read this book in my own room, is a privilege.
To discuss this book on an online forum, is a privilege.
To express angry opinions regarding some articles in this book, is a privilege.
To drink water after, is a privilege.
To snack while reading, is a privilege.
Palash Bansal
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: india-general, social
This book encompasses a number of oxymorons. At one moment you feel like laughing at the mindless policies of the government and various commissions, whereas at the very next moment the pain of the helpless catch your imagination making you feel thoroughly depressed and heartbroken.
A very lucid description of the poor of India with a pretty detailed version of the problems faced by them. This book proves that an official can change the lives of a huge number of people and the only factor
Vikas Lather
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Unspeakably brilliant.
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"Development is the strategy of evasion. When you can't give people land reform, give them hybrid cows. When you can't send the children to school, try non-formal education. When you can't provide basic health to people, talk of health insurance. Can't give them jobs? Not to worry. Just redefine the words 'employment opportunities'. Don't want to do away with using children as a form of slave labour? Never mind. Talk of 'improving the conditions of child labour'. It sounds good. You can even ...more
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it
When you read these short accounts (mostly newspaper reports) of some of the poorest people of India, about their lives and livelihood, about their gullibility and superstitions, about their victimization by the corrupt and mindless policy-makers, about their misery and public apathy towards their sufferings, you will go through a series of emotions - starting from a mix of anger, amusement and pity , slowly moving to frustration and sympathy and finally succumbing to hopeless depression.

Vaishakh Ravi
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book provides an account of the life of the other India, one that's rarely portrayed in media, an India which many of us grow up unaware of, being raised in cities. The narrative is chilling, affects one at a deep level and is quite perspective altering.

It's a story about the sheer apathy India shows to these less fortunate citizens. It questions the very concepts we use when we think of progress - GDP? What does that even mean for the millions of Indian citizens who're cut-off from the
Karn Satyarthi
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
The first thing that struck me after finishing the book was that there was a time in India when a newspaper like Times of India could hire someone like Sainath and give him a free hand over his own reportage. Although the book was compiled in the early 1990s and the wide ranging effects of the economic reforms of 1991 had not yet been understood fully Sainath brilliantly indicates the possibilities in case the reform is not handled with utmost care. To a conscientious reader who belongs to the ...more
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

In this insightful and exceptional work of journalism, Mr Sainath attempts to deconstruct poverty in India by covering the stories from some of the poorest of the poor districts.
Why are these people so poor even after all these years of poverty alleviation programmes, relief work and financial aid?

The author covers two districts each from Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. The stories cover the inefficiency of relief programmes, the prevention of funds trickling down to alleviate the
Mathur Sathya
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is going to be one of my all time favorites now.
"... that rural poverty and it's miserable cousin, suburban squalor, most vividly represented by Dalit India, are seen by the power structures of the country as the cause of India's backwardness, when they're, in truth, it's result"

I chose this line because this broadly is the theme of this book. Book is a collection of articles by the author in 90s about conditions of different villages in India. We tend to think of contemporary issues in
Kartik Muthuswamy
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It took me about a week to finish this book- Almost thrice longer than it takes me to finish a book of this length. And that despite the brilliant readability of P. Sainath's works. It's just that hard to get through these pages. This book is not a flowery description of 'Incredible India'- It grabs you by the collar and punches you in the gut. It's not an uncontrolled tirade against the system, it's the why and how of rural poverty in India put in terms of stories, facts and statistics. It's ...more
Ragavendra Natarajan
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
This review was a long time coming, but I finally managed to get around to writing one. This book is special since it is the only book to have left a deep impress on me although I never actually finished the entire book.

The description of the book is fairly bland - it's a collection of newspaper articles written by the journalist P.S Sainath on rural India while he was on a journalism fellowship. However, I literally wept when I read the chapters - each of which is an article from the newspaper
Arjun Ravichandran
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
P.Sainath is one of my heroes ; the last true journalist. This collection of articles which he authored for the Times of India (there is an irony to end all ironies) focused on the farmer suicides that were sweeping the heartlands of India during the prosperous 90's.
Sainath's writing is hit-and-miss ; he falls back occasionally on some cliches. Additionally, the book reads as what it essentially is ; i.e. a collection of newspaper articles. There is no overarching theme, other than the crushing
Oct 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Given the nature of the topic, it would have been tempting for the author to wallow in the poverty of the people he writes about. It could have sold a lot more copies for sure. Remember Lapierre's La ciudad de la alegría? At the end of it, you just wanted the characters to die and be rid of their suffering.

It's a huge credit to Sainath for side-stepping that and going straight to the matter. Straight to numbers. Number of PHCs, number of schools, number of teachers, percentage attendance, number
Shruti Pandey
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book is a compilation of articles P. Sainath penned during 1992 , when on a Times of India fellowship he has toured some of the poorest districts in the country to know how the poorest of the poor citizens of free India eke out a living in rural areas. "It is about policies, schemes and programs launched with great fanfare and soon left to take their own wayward course, making a mockery of the intended aims."
Kushal Srivastava
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: india
So, in the middle of the most dope decade of all time - the nineties, Indian middle class was sitting on a sofa watching late night horror show on zee TV. This was early nineties and cable TV was a recent addition to the monotone of Doordarshan. People were fascinated with new shiny colors, fresh faces and latest songs and trailers. But most of all there were shows apart from regular family affairs - shows which had promiscuity, wives cheating husbands, husbands hitting on their exes, and ...more
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, india
This book is journalism at its finest and truest to the core spirit that this profession is(should be?) known for. Mr. Sainath spent multiple years on the ground, travelling and living with the people belonging to the lowermost level of the food chain of our esteemed democracy, the poorest districts in the country. But reading through the actual incidents described and meeting the people Sainath met, I feel Lincoln must be delusional when he said democracy is 'for the people' or at least 'for ...more
Ved Gupta
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of reports written by a very insightful journalist P. Sainath. This collection brings to you a journey through some of the poorest villages from 4 states of India. In almost every report, some common points have come up. Wide gap of communication between expected beneficiaries i.e. villagers and those who design such schemes, lack of awareness and education among tribal people and villagers, corrupt practices and insensitivity of those at position of power and misguided ...more
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Simply superb!! If only every journalist were as focused on the real issues as P. Sainath. Although this book deals with issues prevalent 20 years ago, many of these issues are still unresolved. The vested interests of the political system are still there, so is the focus on "development" economics rather than involving people in the growth discussion. Our government assumes that poor people are not reasonable - worse, the govt. assumes that these people don't even know what they need and lack a ...more
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Respected P. Sainath India's only Rural Reporter exposes spine chilling reality of grassroots. Book is all about the 2/3 of India and its problems that are never under the radar of the Glamorous mainstream media. Government policy and its implementation are not only questionable but pitiful in regards of development of the nation. It's about the insensitive bureaucratic mindset and their actions that don't understand the logic and the rational behind the existing problem. And instead of ...more
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is very difficult to read, not because of the writing, but because it highlights issues through such personal stories. Though the stories are all from the 90s, and much has (hopefully) changed since then, I was most curious to know if it has. There was one story with a follow-up, but even that left me wanting to know more. This is a great piece of research, and extremely eye-opening. I hope that at some point, Sainath goes back to each of these people and can tell us what successive ...more
Jagati Bagchi
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
While on a tour in a god foresaken village in Rajasthan, I was offered lunch - roti and a dry curry of babul beans. The plate i was served in was rubbed with soil. Water is so scarce that everyday your daily intake is rationed.

I realised after reading the book it is not nature that has cursed humanity, but men themselves have rejected humanity . . . . our development plans are more interested in keeping alive these pockets of despair, to maintain there hold on the so called liberal policies. .
Tobit Chirayath
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The heart and soul of India is in the villages. So anybody interested know about the situations in our villages just read this book. Rather than the media hype the book will really help us to understand certain facts like is India really shining? What's happening to our nature? Where the fund for development are going?
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, india
This is great journalism, this is a collection of stories from the poorest districts in India, showing how the governments fail to see the reality . even though the research for this was mostly done in 1993-1995, this book is as relevant today as it was more than ten years ago.
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Soul-stirring case studies. P Sainath goes to show that even if there were no corruption, faulty policy-making is going to keep development chained, and our people weak.
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A first-hand, first-person collection of articles written by P Sainath (in the early 1990s) on what life is like in the remotest and ‘most-rural’ parts of India.
The book makes you question India’s development highlighted in the media. There actually are two ‘Indias’ within our India – the first is that of the flourishing middle-class, where life only gets better every single day and the second which has been pummeled by this very middle class and at whose cost (to a large extent) this
Harsimran Khural
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
The book shows the stark poverty normally hidden in the vast Indian hinterland through a series of news articles, grouped thematically. It exposes the systematic exploitation of the poorest by the wealthy and the powerful, a crime knowingly or unknowingly abetted by the state machinery. Because these are news articles, they attempt to sensationalize the subject, and that makes for a bit dreary reading. In addition, the book is about two decades old and hence all the data quoted is irrelevant ...more
Soham Chakraborty
There is not much to write here, except that this book is well...depressing. P. Sainath, the legendary reporter, who prefers calling himself rural reporter, portrays a picture so outside of urban eyes and discourse, that at times it seems prehistoric. The struggle that the people depicted in this book face, for no fault of their own, are mind boggling.

Instead of writing a review of this book, it is best to watch this documentary about agrarian crisis in India, aptly titled 'Nero's Guests':
Roshan John
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Everybody loves a good drought by journalist P. Sainath is a collection of short stories from India’s poorest districts mainly focusing on the districts of Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The book was first published in 1996 and primarily recounts P. Sainath’s journey as a journalist through these parts of India during the 1980s and the early 90s. Even though the book was written 20 years back, the issues discussed in it still continue to prevail in our country. At a time when the ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a middle class Indian citizen brought up in a semi-urban environment, I wouldn't claim myself to be oblivious to the toils of the villagers surrounding me. I hear stories of difficulties the villagers face, but most of it is romanticised. This book was a gut wrenching eye opener for someone with this background. The least I can do is to recommend this book to everyone, I feelvthat it is an obligation for every Indian citizen to be aware of the contents of this work.
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Palagummi Sainath (born 1957), the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for journalism, literature, and creative communication arts, is an award winning Indian development journalist - a term he himself avoids, instead preferring to call himself a 'rural reporter', or simply a 'reporter' - and photojournalist focusing on social problems, rural affairs, poverty and the aftermaths of ...more
“If we were to define a sleeping bag as a house, India would move swiftly towards ending her housing shortage. A shortage of nearly thirty-one million units. Accept this definition, and you could go in for mass production of sleeping bags. We could then have passionate debates about the drastic reduction in the magnitude of the housing problem. The cover stories could run headlines: ‘Is it for real?’ And straps: ‘Sounds too good to be true, but it is.’ The government could boast that it had not only stepped up production of sleeping bags but had piled up an all-time record surplus of them. Say, thirty-seven million. Conservatives could argue that we were doing so well, the time had come to export sleeping bags, at ‘world prices’. The bleeding hearts could moan that sleeping bags had not reached the poorest. Investigative muckrakers could scrutinise the contracts given to manufacturers. Were the bags overpriced? Were they of good quality? That ends the housing shortage. There’s only one problem. Those without houses at the start of the programme will still be without houses at the end of it. (True, some of them will have sleeping bags, probably at world prices.)” 11 likes
“Too often, poverty and deprivation get covered as events. That is, when some disaster strikes, when people die. Yet, poverty is about much more than starvation deaths or near famine conditions. It is the sum total of a multiplicity of factors. The weightage of some of these varies from region to region, society to society, culture to culture. But at the core is a fairly compact number of factors. They include not just income and calorie intake. Land, health, education, literacy, infant mortality rates and life expectancy are also some of them. Debt, assets, irrigation, drinking water, sanitation and jobs count too. You can have the mandatory 2,400 or 2,100 calories a day and yet be very poor. India’s problems differ from those of a Somalia or Ethiopia in crisis. Hunger—again just one aspect of poverty—is far more complex here. It is more low level, less visible and does not make for the dramatic television footage that a Somalia and Ethiopia do. That makes covering the process more challenging—and more important. Many who do not starve receive very inadequate nutrition. Children getting less food than they need can look quite normal. Yet poor nutrition can impair both mental and physical growth and they can suffer its debilitating impact all their lives. A person lacking minimal access to health at critical moments can face destruction almost as surely as one in hunger.” 10 likes
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