PV Satheesh, the founder and executive director of Deccan Development Society (DDS), passed away on Sunday in Hyderabad at the age of 77 after a prolonged illness. His last rites will be performed on Monday at 10.30 am in Sangareddy district.
Satheesh championed issues related to agri-biodiversity, food sovereignty, women’s empowerment, social justice, local knowledge systems, participatory development, and community media through the Zaheerabad-based organisation in rural Telangana. The women’s sanghams of DDS, under his guidance, led the way nationally in offering demonstrable alternatives to the dominant agricultural paradigm through millet cultivation and organic agriculture. The recent efforts to incorporate millets into the public distribution system owe much to the work of DDS.
Born on June 18, 1945, in Mysore, PeriyapatnaVenkatasubbaiah Satheesh was a graduate from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. He started as a journalist and 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 70s.
In the early 80s, Satheesh, along with a few friends, initiated DDS in the semi-arid Zaheerabad region by collectivising poor Dalit women in 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, 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. He was the India Coordinator for SANFEC, the South Asian Network for Food, Ecology and Culture, a five-country network with over 200 ecological groups.