research and policy advocacy for health & wellbeing in India.

Sanitation

Exploring the causes and consequences of widespread open defecation in India

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Sanitation

Social Inequality

Understanding how social discrimination impacts child and maternal health in rural India

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Social Inequality

Maternal Health

Exploring challenges and policy responses to adequate nutrition in motherhood to improve child health

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Maternal Health

Environment

Understanding the health consequences of climate change and air pollution, and exploring policy responses.

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Environment

SARI Paper in EPW!

Our new paper ‘Explicit Prejudice: Evidence from a New Survey’ was published in Economic and Political Weekly on 6th January, 2018. The paper uses data from the newly done phone survey by r.i.c.e. called Social Attitudes Research, India (SARI).

It studies explicit prejudice against women and Dalits in Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. We find high levels of explicit prejudice against both Dalits and women in all the places where our phone survey has been conducted so far. The paper also discusses the need for more active public discourse to challenge the practices of caste and gender based discrimination in India.

Access the article from EPW’s website here, or download it from our research page.

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Aadhaar, biometrics, and the PDS in Jharkhand

Check my new article on ideas for India website.
The Public Distribution System plays an important role in the lives of poor people in Jharkhand. They tend to keep their ration cards safely, go to the ration shop every month without fail, and get angry when the local PDS dealer cheats them. The reason is not difficult to understand: in their fragile and uncertain lives, the PDS provides a modicum of food and economic security.

Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA) is now compulsory for most users of the public distribution
system in Jharkhand. In this paper, I argue that “the success of ABBA depends on the simultaneous functioning of undependable technologies such as the PoS machine, remote Aadhaar servers, fingerprint recognition devices, and internet connectivity.The analysis of digital records, along with independent survey data, provides us with some important insights on the impact of the new system on the PDS in Jharkhand, and it’s only in the combination of digital records and the survey data, such as Drèze et. al. (2017, paper ), that a clearer picture emerges. Even in Ranchi district, a relatively ‘favourable environment’ for these technologies to function, the failure rates are considerable.

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India’s new DHS (NFHS-4) is out!

The hard-working folks at the Demographic and Health Surveys and the International Institute of Population Sciences, Mumbai have the perfect new year gift for researchers in India: the new round of the India’s DHS, also called NFHS – 4 (2015-16).

You can download the dataset from the measure DHS website  after registering yourself (its free!): https://dhsprogram.com/what-we-do/survey/survey-display-355.cfm

The national report is available for download too: http://rchiips.org/NFHS/NFHS-4Report.shtml

State reports are trickling in, but state and district fact-sheets have been available for sometime: http://rchiips.org/NFHS/factsheet_NFHS-4.shtml
or https://dhsprogram.com/publications/publication-FR338-DHS-Final-Reports.cfm

Like many others, all of us at r.i.c.e. have been waiting for the new round of NFHS. The last DHS was 2005-06, so this DHS comes after a ten year drought of good nationally representative health data. I am really looking forward to all the papers and the analysis based on the NFHS-4.

Here’s wishing good luck to all the researchers, journalists, public health activists, and others as they spend time analyzing the data, writing papers and articles, and contributing to improvements in health in India. May the force be with you.

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A Small Tribute to Uwe Reinhardt

I was greatly saddened to hear about Uwe Reinhardt’s passing on Monday, November 13, 2017.  For those who may not be familiar with him, Uwe was the James Madison Professor of Political Economy and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  To say the least, he was a well-known health economist who — for decades — was active in health care policy in the U.S. and abroad (e.g., Uwe and his wife, May, helped to advise the Taiwanese government for at least 10 years).  If you search “Uwe Reinhardt” on the internet, you will find innumerable articles remembering and honoring Uwe.

I wanted to share a personal note about Uwe.  Between 2011 and 2014, I had the good fortune of being Uwe’s Teaching Assistant on several occasions, and out of his great compassion, Uwe agreed to be on my dissertation committee.  Some of the student offices (where Mike Geruso, John Papp, Dean Spears, and I sat for a few years) were located across the hall from Uwe’s office.  To all who are thinking about graduate school, I sincerely hope that you will find a mentor like Uwe,

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On drones and defecation

Hat tip to r.i.c.e. board member Avinash Kishore for noticing this article in the Hindustan Times: “In Telangana’s Karimnagar, police deploy drone to stop open defecation.”

Two quotations from the article:

“Ironically, almost all the houses in these colonies have toilets. ‘Yet, people were habituated to come out early in the morning for open defecation, despite the hectic campaign about Swachh Bharat in the last two years. So, we thought we could shame them by exposing them through drone camera,’ the commissioner said.”

“The police want to continue the drone surveillance on the banks of the lake after checking the open defecation. ‘We are now focusing on pig-rearers who bring their animals to the reservoir bank and make the waters dirty,’ the police commissioner added.”

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Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma reviewed Where India Goes in today’s Hindustan Times

You can read the whole review at this link.  Here is a quotation:

“Researchers Diane Coffey and Dean Spears have written a book that is important, timely, and easy to read. It argues that caste is the biggest stumbling block to overcoming open defecation. Drawing heavily on field studies and data analysis, the authors contend that the power of the state over open defecation is limited because it not only lacks the human resources needed for behavioural change but also because the social forces against it are strong.”

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Bezwada Wilson on caste, manual scavenging, and the Swachh Bharat Mission

If there is one thing you will read today, let it be this interview of Bezwada Wilson by Vidya Subrahmaniam of The Hindu Center in The Wire. Bezwada Wilson and Vidya Subrahmaniam  discuss some of rice’s sanitation research, but more importantly, Bezwada Wilson describes the changes he would have liked to see before, or along with the government’s ‘cleaning frenzy’ and ‘toilet construction spree’, as well as the non-implementation of the ‘Prohibition Of Employment As Manual Scavengers And Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013’.

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