The People’s Archive of Rural India: P. Sainath’s Anti-commercial Website Honoring Human Stories

P. Sainath Conversation


By: Sabrina Zuluaga

Palagummi Sainath, otherwise known as P. Sainath, is an award-winning journalist and former Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu. Sainath joined The School of Humanities at UC Irvine Oct. 22 to discuss his online, multi-media project, The Peoples Archive of Rural India, which is slated to launch in December.

All the participating writers, photographers, film-makers and contributors for the online archive agreed to credit and provide full ownership to their subjects—the rural individuals of India. By giving them comprehensive ownership, the project is giving their stories proper acknowledgement. Sainath respects that without them, there would be no story. The site carries no commercial vendettas and freely advocates the sharing and utilization of its content to all.

“The idea of The People’s Archive was twofold: one, to record [the] occupational diversity and to let people tell their stories,” says Sainath.

Rural India

Image via Rural India Online

Sainath further explained that his motivation for the archive was due to the lack of beats concerning labor, ruralism, employment and the multi-leveled gender oppression in India. India is the country with the largest number of poor, starving people and has a child-malnourishment rate that almost doubles that of Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Who tells [their] story? Who records these? The Indian media do not have a rural beat. [They are] at this point too busy rewriting the book of heroes—it’s got to be one hero and that’s the Prime Minister,” says Sainath.

India is essentially a complex country with 833 million people, more than 780 languages and great occupational diversity. In the last 10 to 20 years, the direction of economic policy has devastated agriculture in the countryside, sending millions of rural Indians in search of jobs.

Sainath illustrated the occupation of a rural Indian tree-climber. This man climbs fifty date palm-trees twice a day in order to retrieve sap to produce palm molasses or fermented alcohol, Tadi.

Rural India

Image via Rural India Online

The Peoples Archive of Rural India will offer video, audio, still-photo, articles and research depicting the everyday lifestyle of rural Indians. Sainath’s non-profit efforts are to offer them complete acknowledgement for their stories. While India’s mainstream media focuses on the top five percent of society, such as the wealthy and prestigious, this archive honors the stories and lives of the bottom five percent.


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