Palagummi Sainath (born 1957) is an Indian journalist and author of the book Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He has reported on rural India, writing about poverty, structural inequities, caste discrimination and farmers protests.
He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2007, for believing that “journalism is for people, not for shareholders”, and for writing about “those who have been left behind”. He founded the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) in 2014, an online platform that focuses on social and economic inequality, rural affairs, poverty, and the aftermath of globalization in India. He was a senior fellow at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, and was earlier the Rural Affairs Editor at The Hindu until his resignation in 2014.
The economist Amartya Sen called him “one of the world’s great experts on famine and hunger“. His book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, is a collection of his field reports as a journalist, and focuses on different aspects of rural deprivation in India.
Sainath started his career at the United News of India in 1980. He then worked for the Blitz, a major Indian weekly tabloid published from Mumbai, first as foreign affairs editor and then as deputy editor, which he continued for ten years.
On June 28, 2021, P. Sainath won the Fukuoka Grand Prize, one of Japan’s most prestigious international awards that honours ‘individuals, groups or organisations who create as well as preserve the many distinct and diverse cultures of the Asian Region.’ The last Indian winner of the Fukuoka Grand Prize was music maestro A.R. Rahman in 2016. In the 31-year history of the award, P. Sainath is the first Grand Prize Laureate from the field of Journalism. Sainath is contributing the 5-million-yen prize money for two purposes: Rs. 1 million to families of rural journalists who have lost their lives to Covid-19. And Rs. 2.3 million to set up People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) fellowships for rural journalists from Dalit and Adivasi communities.
Sainath was awarded the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism Literature and Creative Communications Arts. He was given the award for his “passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India’s national consciousness”. He was the first Indian to win the Magsaysay in that category after R.K. Laxman in 1984.
Sainath became the first Indian reporter to win the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Prize for journalism in 1995. In 2000, he won the inaugural Amnesty International Global Human Rights Journalism Prize. That same year, he was awarded the United Nation’s Food & Agriculture Organisation’s Boerma Prize. In 2002, he was given the Inspiration Award at the Global Visions Film Festival in Edmonton, Canada. During the decade, Sainath toured ten drought-stricken states in India. This tour inspired him to write his book Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He was awarded the Harry Chapin Media Award in New York in 2006.
Sainath has not accepted government awards stating, “Journalism should not be judged by government and journalists should not accept awards from governments they are covering or writing about”. In 2009 he won the Ramnath Goenka ‘Journalist of the Year’ award from The Indian Express.
On July 7, 2021, the government of the state of Andhra Pradesh announced the winners of its new YSR Lifetime Achievement Awards. Sainath’s was the first name in the journalist category for this prize that gives each winner Rs. 1 million. He, however, turned down the prize as it is his belief that journalists should not accept awards from governments they cover and critique. In his words “the journalist is an external auditor to government.”
This is not the first time Sainath has declined state honours. He has never accepted one in 40 years and has turned down several, including the Padma Bhushan  – India’s third highest civilian award – in 2009, on the same grounds on which he declined the YSR Lifetime Achievement award.
Canadian documentary film maker Joe Moulins made a film about Sainath titled “A Tribe of his Own”. When the jury at the Edmonton International Film Festival picked its winner, it decided to include Sainath in the award along with the maker of the film because this was ‘an award about inspiration’. Another documentary film, Nero’s Guests, looks at inequality (as manifest in India’s agrarian crisis) through Sainath’s reporting on the subject. Nero’s Guests won the Indian Documentary Producers Association’s Gold Medal for best documentary for 2010.
In 2012, he served as the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University. He was the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton University Fall (2012). On 1 June 2015, Sainath became the first ThoughtWorks Chair Professor in Rural India and Digital Knowledge at the Asian College of Journalism. He won the inaugural World Media Summit Global Award for Excellence 2014 in Public Welfare for exemplary news professionals in developing countries.
Sainath served as the Coady Chair in Social Justice at St. Francis Xavier University.
Sainath is also a photographer  that have accompanied his reporting for the past 40 years. His exhibition Visible Work, Invisible Women: Women and work in rural India has been seen by more than 600,000 people in India alone. The exhibit toured internationally and included a showing at the Asia Society