Hyderabad: Founder and Executive Director of Deccan Development Society (DDS) P V Satheesh passed away, at the age of 77 on Sunday after undoing treatment at a private hospital in the city for a prolonged illness.
His last rites are to be performed on Monday at 10:30 am in Pastapur Village of Sangareddy district.
Satheesh was an icon of civil society activism in India, who, through the Zaheerabad-based organisation in rural Telangana, championed issues of agri-biodiversity, food sovereignty, women’s empowerment, social justice, local knowledge systems, participatory development, and community media.
The women’s sanghams of DDS with a steadfast adherence to millet cultivation and organic agriculture led the way nationally in offering demonstrable alternatives to the dominant agricultural paradigm. Satheesh led the recent efforts to incorporate millets into the public distribution system.
Born on June 18, 1945 in Mysore, Periyapatna Venkatasubbaiah Satheesh was a graduate of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi and started out as a journalist.
He went on to work as a television producer for nearly two decades for Doordarshan, making programmes related to rural development and rural literacy in the then-united Andhra Pradesh. He played an important role in the historical Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in the 1970s.
In the early 1980s, Satheesh, along with a few friends, initiated the Deccan Development Society in the semi-arid Zaheerabad region by collectivizing poor Dalit women in the villages for a range of programmes that together challenged hunger, malnutrition, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, gender injustice, and social deprivation.
He led the organisation for nearly four decades to become an internationally acclaimed NGO and an inspiring example that has motivated similar experiments in millet revival and promotion across the country.
PV Satheesh’s efforts at DDS resulted in improved livelihoods of thousands of poor women across 75 villages in Telangana.
He also led several national and international networks like Millet Network of India (MINI), South Against Genetic Engineering (SAGE), AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity and was also the India Coordinator for SANFEC, the South Asian Network for Food, Ecology and Culture, a five-country South Asian network with over 200 ecological groups.
He was formerly Board Member, Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN), Barcelona, Spain and was also a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), Brussels, Belgium.
Sateesh is also credited with the initiation of India’s first Community Media Trust, a grassroots media centre where non-literate Dalit women were trained in film-making to democratize media spaces, and also with the launching of India’s first rural, civil society-led community radio station, Sangham Radio.
He was recently honoured for his lifetime contributions to making millets a people’s agenda.