It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we inform that Mr P. V. Satheesh (77), founder and Executive Director of Deccan Development Society (DDS) passed away this morning. Last rites were performed on Monday at 10.30 am in Pastapur Village of Sangareddy district.
As one of the icons of civil society activism in India, Mr. Satheesh, 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 and their steadfast adherence to millet cultivation and organic agriculture led the way nationally in offering demonstrable alternatives to the dominant agricultural paradigm. The recent efforts to incorporate millets into the public distribution system owes much to the work of DDS under his guidance.
Born on June 18, 1945 in Mysore, Periyapatna Venkatasubbaiah Satheesh was a graduate from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi and started out as a journalist. He went on to work as a pioneering 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, Mr. 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.
As the director of DDS, PV Satheesh’s long-standing efforts resulted in improving the 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. He 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 a tireless worker and leader in the NGO sector who remained committed to his principles and was a generous mentor to many young people. He was recently honoured for his lifetime contributions in making millets a people’s agenda.
His presence will be greatly missed by his friends, family, staff at DDS, and thousands of women farmers in Zaheerabad. The Board of Directors of DDS would like to join thousands of community members and the larger civil society fraternity in mourning the passing of Mr. Satheesh and wishes to place on record his immense services to the organisation and the causes it has been espousing. The organisation intends to continue the activities of the DDS with the same commitment and dedication.
On behalf of the DDS women Sanghams & Board members.