research and policy advocacy for rural India.

Sanitation

Exploring the impacts of open defecation on child health and what it will take to end OD in India

Read More
Sanitation

Social Inequality

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

Read More
Social Inequality

Maternal Health

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

Read More
Maternal Health

Make sure our markets glitter

I’ve been worrying — to anyone who will put up with listening — that the attention generated by the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan will be diverted from lifesaving efforts to end rural open defecation, towards cleaning up litter in the markets of the urban rich.  You can tell that I didn’t make up this picture I took in Defence Colony this morning because my stock example has been Khan Market:...Read More..

  • Tags:

Op-Ed in Indian Express: Can India be far behind?

Op-ed in Indian Express: Can India be far behind? Written by Dean Spears on November 19th, 2014 My op-ed on emissions and coal in India was published today in the Indian express.  I’ll post it below, but first this haunting photograph that accompanied Gardiner Harris’ article yesterday in the NYT on coal in Jharkhand and its implications or India and climate change — read it first! My article: Can India be far behind? This week, China announced a historic goal: its carbon emissions will peak around 2030, and subsequently decline. This announcement is widely regarded as a landmark moment in humanity’s efforts to avert catastrophic climate change.  Scientific evidence leaves no room to doubt that the well-being of all nations will soon depend critically on the emissions that we are all pumping into the air today. For now, the worst offenders are the richer countries of North America and Europe. But, the large developing economies are catching up fast.  Only China and the U.S. exceed India in annual carbon dioxide emissions; Europe does too, if it is counted as a country. Yet, annual emissions are now declining in the U.S. and Europe, as well as in Canada, Australia, and South Africa. India’s rate of increasing...Read More..

  • Tags:

Coal isn’t worth the cost

I’m writing mainly to post a link to Gardiner Harris’s NYT story today: Coal rush in India could tip balance on climate change.  Getting energy from coal has truly awful health consequences — I sometimes think that if I weren’t working on open defecation, that would be where I should turn my attention. The only thing I would add to Gardiner’s article is a reply to the quoted politicians who repeat the old misunderstanding that India needs coal to develop.  In fact, mounting evidence proves that coal is a bad economic deal even only for the present generation, ignoring climate change: the disease, medical expenses, and loss of life are simply too large to be worth it.  Two thirds of India’s emissions due to energy consumption are from coal, and that is something nobody needs: not future generations, not today’s workers and taxpayers, and certainly not tomorrow’s babies, who will attempt to grow healthy while breathing its smoke....Read More..

  • Tags:

Wrong numbers: Attack on NREGA is misleading

Photo Curtsey: The Hindu A recent article in the Times of India by Dilip Abreu, Pranab Bardhan, Maitreesh Ghatak, Ashok Kotwal, Dilip Mookherjee and Debraj Ray poses a rational argument against phasing out the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Here are some of the excerpts from the article. The author’s say, “If, for the sake of argument, workers do currently earn Rs 80, it is only true that the gain for the NREGA worker is Rs 50. However, what matters is the gain, direct and indirect, for all workers. In this scenario, there will typically be a wage increase (though not “by leaps and bounds”, as attributed by BP to mysterious propagandists), which benefits all employed workers. This is possible even when NREGA employment is wholly concentrated in the slack season (if higher slack earnings tighten peak labour supply). Even small increases in the market wage translate into large aggregate benefits, given the size of the labour force under consideration.” They also talk about the other non-transfer benefits of NREGA like assets creation and empowerment of women who work for NREGA, “Rural roads, soil conservation, flood control, groundwater recharge and land improvement projects may not shine as brightly as the smart cities...Read More..

Stopping stunting, Swachh Bharat, and trash cans

I’m writing from the opening minutes of a large Unicef conference called Stop Stunting at the Taj Palace hotel in Delhi.  On my way into the hotel, I had with me an empty soda can to throw away.  The lobby of the hotel is indeed palatial, but neither there, nor downstairs in the conference area, nor in the large meeting room of the conference could I find a trash can. After searching this huge, glittering expanse, I eventually tried the men’s room.  But even there, the otherwise servile bathroom attendant yelled at me just before I dropped my piece of trash in: that trash can is isn’t for the cloth towels at the sinks.  So what am I supposed to do with it? He took it from me wordlessly. Of course, trash cans will not stop or otherwise impact stunting — although one would not know it from the extent to which litter and sweeping have absorbed all the media and political attention of India’s new Swachh Bharat Mission.  But this surpassingly fancy hotel intends to have everything proper, and we learn something about cultural ideas of cleanliness and purity from what this goal, immaculately achieved, does and does not...Read More..

An insightful look at the hurdels of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

Sreenivasan Jain: Is Swachh Bharat repeating mistakes of the past? India’s proposed toilet revolution is all set to repeat mistakes of the past Enter Ramduari in Uttar Pradesh’s impoverished Sitapur district, and the toilets stand out in their striking white newness, one outside every home. We are told they came four months ago, under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), the United Progressive Alliance-era scheme to build individual rural toilets, now replaced by the prime minister’s even more ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. On paper, the NBA seemed unexceptionable: individual demands for toilets would be routed via a district level committee to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, which would release money into the account of the gram sabha: Rs 10,500 for each latrine. It was left to the beneficiary to decide the choice of contractor, size, design and so on. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan adopts roughly the same demand-driven model. In Ramduari, however, the toilets had an unused air about them. The village continues to defecate along the banks of a nearby canal. We had come on a day when the clouds were dark with the prospect of rain. Isn’t there a risk of faeces being washed into the canal? Yes, they said. Some even drink the water, we were told,...Read More..