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AID Hosts P. Sainath Of People Archive Of Rural India

Press Release

“Between fake optimism and cynical pessimism is a territory called hope ­ I live there” ­ P. Sainath.

On the 15th of March, 2015, Association for India’s Development (Boston and MIT Chapters) and the Alliance for Democratic and Secular South Asia, organized the Boston launch of the People Archive of Rural India (PARI). This effort headed by P.Sainath, synonymous with hard hitting journalism on rural affairs, poverty and social problems, aims to bring to fore the lesser seen face of rural India.

Rural India to my mind is most complex part of planet earth" Sainath adds. His initiative PARI focuses on "Everyday Lives of Everyday People", and the sheer diversity of rural India ­ in the 780 languages spoken by 833 million people, the occupational diversity ranging from toddy tappers of Tamil Nadu to the Khalasis (boatbuilders/hydraulic experts) of the Malabar Coast , the diverse forms of art and culture and even the diversity in facial features. "Rural India is in midst of giant transformation" Sainath began. Most indigenous jobs are dying out in the face of rampant industrialization and migration of rural workers to the city and household incomes are falling at a time of unprecedented inflation. From 1991­-2011 the population of full time farmers has dipped by 15 million while the number of agricultural laborers has increased. What is even more tragic is that this trend enables power hierarchies, leading to the retention and growth of barbaric and regressive practices such as the formation of Khap Panchayats, while schools of art such as the art of weaving Kanchipuram sarees, are dying. PARI, aims through citizen journalism to keep this face of India alive.

A room of about 140 people watched enthralled as Sainath showed few snippets of videos, of women Kalaripayattu (a Martial arts form with origins in Kerala) masters, rural poets/singers like Purna Das who uses his art to protest injustices by Industrial giants like POSCO, and children from tribal village schools who in a well moderated debate discussed the pros and cons of GMOs in agriculture. PARI he said "is both living a journal and an archive. It is trying to capture something of this complexity, putting it together on a platform of audio, video, still photos, text articles and an online research library.”

In a section called “Faces” ­ PARI aims to gather pictures from all the districts in India. With 580 districts to go Sainath requested people to contribute pictures. Just by skimming through a few pictures one is immediately struck by the enormity of the number of people with diverse experiences and life stories in India. India is made of hundreds of people who form the center of such everyday struggles, one such inspiring face Sainath shared was Gujjari Mohanty ­ an 70 year old betel leaf farmer whose livelihood was threatened by POSCO. In the video, she questions the paradigm of development which takes land destroys livelihood & talks about creating jobs. She boldly claims “my local betel leaf farm employs more people every year than POSCO, which replaces humans with machines”.

PARI also aims to develop different themes, such as a series commemorating rural women on International Women’s Day, special series of articles/stories of people fighting against the most regressive

Land Acquisition Bill passed by the government, and in future series on Agrarian Crisis. In the face of rural to urban migrations PARI will also be covering pieces on the “Rural in the Urban”. Talking albums, Sainath remarked are the ‘special usp of the site’. It provides an opportunity for the photographer to give audio

captions to the photos.

What is perhaps most appealing about this endeavor is that it is completely volunteer driven, and anybody can participate. While some content was contributed by seasoned journalists, a large section of it was contributed by students and everyday people. PARI represents the voices of the people, and they have ownership over the material. Material is only screened for content and attitude. In attempt for this archive to reach a wider audience, PARI aims to offer subtitles in several Indian languages, as many as the volunteers willingness to contribute subtitles on different local language.

PARI offers a truly refreshing view of rural India, its everyday lives, struggles and triumphs. It gives us the opportunity to take off our city tinted glasses, leave behind our misconceptions and stereotypes of rural India, and see rural India and people for what they are ­ our fellow citizens and members of our greater

Full length videos of the talk ­ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zuuj0gMJMo

To learn more about PARI visit http://www.ruralindiaonline.org/.

PARI does not accept Corporate sponsorship or Government funds.

To learn more about AID Boston and our activities visit: http://www.aidboston.org/drupal/

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