Sainath was awarded the YSR Lifetime Achievement Award by the Andhra Pradesh government.
P Sainath, founder of People’s Rural Archive of India, declined the YSR Lifetime Achievement Award from the Andhra Pradesh government today. According to the Hindu, awardees receive a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh as well as a memento.
Explaining why in a series of tweets, Sainath said that journalists should not accept awards from governments they cover or critique as they are "external auditors to the government".
Sainath told Newslaundry that the incident should not be made into a big deal and that his personal philosophy of not accepting government or state awards is not new.
“I got calls from people in the Telegu press about it," Sainath told Newslaundry. "My friends in the media there were quite bewildered because they knew that I would not accept government or state awards. So, I was suddenly bombarded with calls and then felt the need to make a clarification.”
Other journalists who will be presented with lifetime achievement awards include ABK Prasad (from Krishna), the late Potturi Venkateswara Rao (Guntur), Sheik Kaza Hussain (Devi Priya) (Guntur), K. Amarnath (West Godavari), cartoonist Surendra (Kadapa), Telakapalli Ravi (Kurnool), and Imam (Anantapur).
Last week, Sainath was awarded the Fukuoka Grand Prize for 2021, which is established by Japan’s Fukuoka city and the Fukuoka City International Foundation. The award is given to individuals and organisations for their work in preserving Asian culture.
Sainath told Newslaundry that his declining of the award should not be perceived as a comment against any specific government. “It is a personally evolved professional principle and I do not impose it on others,” he said. “I am not saying that everyone who accepts a government award will sing to its tune, but there is a certain ethical framework of protocol that I want to keep for myself.”
This is not the first time that Sainath has declined a government award; his stand on the issue has remained consistent for 40 years. As journalist Parth MN tweeted, he had turned down the Padma Bhushan in 2009 as well.
Sainath added, “I would not have had to say anything had the Andhra government asked me beforehand. I would have explained to them that this was simply not what I do. Since they didn’t approach me and I got to know from my fellow journalists in Andhra, then I had to clarify.”
Regarding non-government awards, he said that he makes a decision on a case to case basis.
“My clarification is a very straightforward and mild one, I am not abusing anybody," Sainath said. "But it makes the point of what I consider to be the ethical protocols suitable to myself. Who am I to lecture others?