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

r.i.c.e. article in THE WIRE

Swachh Bharat Mission since its inception has been facing a drought in terms of policy solutions. Given that 2019 is the target for achieving an open defecation free India, the program has already lived half of its life and yet has not managed to look beyond building latrines. While most of India lags in getting people to build latrines and use them, the government machinery continues to over publicize the “success islands”. The Government of India’s solution to 60% of the world’s open defecation problem is replicating what happened in these isolated places.

I visited Indore, India’s second open defecation free district, to understand what helped it reach this milestone and if there were lessons that Swachh Bharat Mission could learn from. I wondered: Could this be replicated in other parts of India? And, more importantly should it be replicated in other parts of the country?

To know more about the Indore experience read this article in THE WIRE .

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2016 Jeroen Ensink Memorial Prize Announcement

Payal, Dean, and Diane’s article, “Can collective strategies motivate behavior change to reduce open defecation in rural India?” was recently honored with the Jeroen Ensink Memorial Prize from Waterlines Journal.   See the announcement and full paper here.

The award was established in memory of Jeroen Ensink, an engineer, researcher, and teacher who dedicated his life and work to using research in the WASH sector to improve lives.  We are indeed humbled that the committee felt that our paper contributed in some way to his life’s work, and to the larger work of water and sanitation in the developing world.

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How to continue the pit emptying momentum

I’m pasting below a list of practical action ideas that Robert Chambers has proposed after the pit emptying demonstration in Warangal. These are activities that governments and organizations can take up alike, to break down taboos around pit emptying related to caste and untouchability. These are some great ideas, and if they are actually taken up by the government and others, it could be a real turning point for the SBM.

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  • Spread pit-emptying, now that the example has been set. Approach and send out a short note in  many copies with photos to key influentials especially the following encouraging them to do likewise: spiritual leaders, political leaders, district collectors.
  • Encourage all to carry around and display the manure they have dug up, showing how it is odourless, dry, crumbly and non-polluting, passing it around in meetings – (we did this in Raipur with 30 SHG members who had no qualms) – the CEO, Nileshkumar Kshirsagar had dug some out the same morning.
  • Make it a status and prestige thing – have you dug out a pit? Haven’t you dug a pit out yet?  So that it becomes a social norm within Government, NGOs, journalists and so on,
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Maternity benefits – not yet universal

At the start of the new year, we were excited to see forward momentum on the national maternity entitlements program: the prime minister announced that the program would be made universal and cover all districts beginning January 1st, 2017 (up from the 52 pilot districts in the current IGMSY pilot program).  Additionally, an expanded budget allocation of 2,700 crore, up from approximately 433 crore last year, was announced a few weeks ago. Even though this amount falls far below what women are actually owed under the law, it was still heartening to see that the government was making plans to reach more women.

However, an Indian Express article last week reported that in the face of insufficient funding, the Ministry of Women and Child Development may limit maternity entitlements to only a woman’s first birth, instead of covering all births, which is what is mandated by law.  Limiting the transfer to the first birth will prevent many children from benefiting from this transfer.  Setting a one-child limit now could set an exclusionary precedent that may be difficult to change later.

In addition to this potential new limit, this article in Scroll yesterday covered many of the other problems with the maternity benefits program,

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Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation Secretary empties a latrine pit!

The Times of India reported yesterday that the Secretary of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Param Iyer, emptied a latrine pit in Warangal district yesterday. Read why r.i.c.e. believes this is an important step forward in our op-ed in The Hindu.

It’s now well known that the history and continuing practice of untouchability play an important role in explaining open defecation in India. Several studies have found that many rural Indians associate emptying a latrine pit by hand with manual scavenging, work that Dalits have traditionally been compelled to do. Thankfully, the exploitation and exclusion of Dalits is being challenged in India, and many have abandoned the degrading work associated with their oppression. In light of this situation, though, rural Indians do not want to use the kinds of latrines that require periodic manual pit emptying, like those promoted by the Indian government.

It is therefore laudable that Secretary Iyer, the highest-ranking bureaucrat working on sanitation, set an example for representatives of each state by emptying a latrine pit himself.

But many rural Indians probably do not know who Secretary Iyer is and may not come across the articles covering this event, so it will be essential for others to pass on the message. I only hope that this is the beginning of many such demonstrations across the country.

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Accountability Initiative releases its 2017 budget brief on Swacch Bharat Mission-Gramin

Accountability Initiative has released its 2017 budget brief report on SBM-Gramin.  According to the report, GOI allocation of SBM-G have increased over threefold since 2014-15. In FY 2016-17, 98 percent of the total expenditure incurred between April and January 10 was for the construction of individual household latrines.  Like the previous years, money spent on IEC was meagre. SBM-G guidelines require 8 percent of allocations to be utilized for IEC activities. However, in FY 2016-17, till 10 January 2017, only 1 percent of total expenditure had been on IEC activities. Access the full Budget Brief here.

Yamini Aiyer, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and director of the Accountability Initiative, writes about the constraints in achieving the country’s goal of achieving a Swachh Bharat in Live Mint. Apart from the government data, the article has used r.i.c.e.’s SARI data to show the lack of on-the-ground engagement in promoting toilet use. The SARI survey revealed that only 2.6% of respondents in rural Uttar Pradesh and 5.4% in Delhi were aware that the SBM promotes toilet use. Find this interesting article here.

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