Mr Sainath is the Rural Affairs Editor for The Hindu and received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2007. He received the European Commission's Natali Prize in 1994 and the Boerma Journalism Prize from the UN FAO in 2001 , the Amnesty International global award for human rights journalism in 2000,the PUCL Human Rights Journalism Award, and the B.D. Goenka award for excellence in journalism in 2000. In June 2006 Sainath won the Judges' prize (newspaper category) in the 2005 Harry Chapin Media Awards.In 2009 he won the Ramnath Goenka 'Journalist of the Year' award from The Indian Express.
Amartya Sen once called him "one of the world's great experts on famine and hunger".
Mr Sainath has also taught at various universities including the University of California, Berkley.