Founder of Deccan Development Society ‘Millet Man’ PV Satish passes away at 77 after prolonged illness
The man who deserved the honor of being called the Millet Man of India for his pioneering work in demonstrating an alternative, ecologically sustainable agricultural food system, died in Hyderabad on Sunday morning after a prolonged illness.
PV Satish was the founder and executive director of the Deccan Development Society (DDS), which operated out of Pastapur village in Telangana’s Sangareddy district, where the 77-year-old’s last rites will be held on Monday at 10.30 am.
As DDS Board Member Vinod Pavarala said, Mr. Satish was an icon of civil society activism in India. Her Zaheerabad-based organization in rural Telangana has successfully championed issues of agro-biodiversity, food sovereignty, women’s empowerment, social justice, local knowledge systems, participatory development and community media.
The women’s groups of DDS called sanghams and their steadfast adherence to millet cultivation and organic agriculture paved the way for offering demonstrative alternatives to the dominant agricultural paradigm at the national level.
The credit for the recent efforts to include millets in the Public Distribution System goes to the work of the DDS under his guidance. Years ago, Mr. Satish had set up a local public distribution system, run by women farmers, entirely based on the millet crop.
Born in Mysore on June 18, 1945, Periyapatna Venkatasubbiah Satish was a graduate of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, and started off as a journalist. He worked for Doordarshan as a leading television producer for nearly two decades, making programs related to rural development and rural literacy in the then united Andhra Pradesh. He played a key role in the historic Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in the 1970s.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Satish, along with a few friends, started the Deccan Development Society in the semi-arid Zaheerabad region, bringing together poor Dalit women in villages to rediscover their faith in traditional knowledge systems , thereby helping to challenge hunger, malnutrition. , land degradation, loss of biodiversity, gender injustice and social deprivation.
While Mr. Satish led the organization for nearly four decades to make it an internationally acclaimed NGO, and an inspiring example that inspired similar experiments in millet revival and promotion across the country, what he did effectively It was to create powerful leaders from among illiterate people. Women, from the most marginalized communities, who became powerful agents of change.
As director of DDS, PV Satish’s long-standing efforts have resulted in improved livelihoods of thousands of poor women across 75 villages in Telangana. He also leads several national and international networks like Millet Network of India (MINI), South Against Genetic Engineering (SAGE), AP Coalition in Defense of Diversity and was the India Coordinator for South Asian Food, Ecology Network, Sanfec. and Culture, a five-country South Asian network with over 200 ecological groups.
He was formerly a board member of Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN), Barcelona, Spain, and also a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), Brussels, Belgium.
Mr. Satish used his experience in media to start India’s first Community Media Trust, a grassroots media center where illiterate Dalit women were trained in film making, in order to democratize the media space, and India’s first rural, civil society led community radio station, Sangham Radio.
He was a tireless activist and leader in the NGO sector committed to his principles and a benevolent mentor to many youth. He was recently honored by the People’s Convention on Millets by the RRA (Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture) Network in Delhi for his lifelong contribution in making millets a people’s agenda.