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Written by on January 9th, 2015

Hello. We have moved to our new website. If you are still on the old website, you are missing out. Click here to go to our new website.

SQUAT, Payal and Nikhil on NDTV’s Truth Vs. Hype with Sreenivasan Jain

Written by on October 25th, 2014

Squat on NDTV

NDTV’s award winning journalist, Sreenivasan Jain, on his much acclaimed programme Truth versus Hype, discussed the truth and the hype of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. You can see the video here.

Nikhil took Sreenivasan Jain around villages of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and talked on the show about his experiences of fieldwork on sanitation programmes as well.

Nikhil on NDTV 2

Payal was also a part of the show.

Payal on ndtv

The programme is fairly important. For the first time, on national television, points that r.i.c.e. has continues to made in articles and op-eds can be seen. People might not believe the SQUAT survey, but people would have a tough time ignoring villagers from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh talking about their toilets and why they don’t like using them.


r.i.c.e. in the Indian Express and on Anubha Bhonsle’s show India at 9!

Written by on October 3rd, 2014

Image credit The Indian Express.

Check out Aashish and Payal’s article in today’s Indian Express, calling for a Sanitation Sena in India, and they made a very cool cartoon too!

Sangita, Jeff Hammer, and Jayamala Subramaniam, rang in the Swacch Bharat Mission on India at 9 with Anubha Bhonsle last night. The show culminated with Bhonsle summarizing, “The emphasis has to be on behavioural change.” Their segment of the show starts at 33:00.


Written by on September 19th, 2014

epw paper mugshot


A shorter version of the squat working paper 1 was just published by the EPW. Check it out on the EPW website! The paper will be available for free download starting tomorrow, but we are linking a copy for you! Don’t miss it. See it here.

Principles for a Swatchh Bharat Mission

Written by on July 12th, 2014


For ensuring hygiene, waste management and sanitation across the nation a “Swachh Bharat Mission” will be launched. This will be our tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary to be celebrated in the year 2019.

– Address to the Parliament – June 2014 – President Pranab Mukherjee

The need for sanitation is of utmost importance.  Although the Central Government is providing resources within its means, the task of total sanitation cannot be achieved without the support of all. The Government intends to cover every household by total sanitation by the year 2019, the 150th year of the Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi through Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan.

— Budget Speech – July 2014 – Honourable Minister Arun Jaitley


The Government of India has announced a new Swatchh Bharat Mission, or Mission for a Sanitary India.  The details of the Mission are currently under development.  We recommend the following five principles:

1. Reducing open defecation is the top priority. Although there are many benefits of a cleaner India, it is open defecation which kills hundreds of thousands of children each year and limits the development of those who survive. Open defecation shall be the top priority of the Mission.

2. Central measurement of latrine use. Recognizing that any goal that is not measured is not achieved, the Swach Bharat Mission shall establish an independent, accountable mechanism of monitoring latrine use, not latrine construction.

3. Achieving latrine use requires promoting behaviour change. Information, education, and latrine use promotion shall be the cornerstones of any successful Mission to end open defecation. Officers shall not be asked how many latrines they constructed; instead, officers shall be held to account for what they did to change minds and behaviour and to promote latrine use.

4. Latrine use requires a ground staff. Rural sanitation teams at the block and district level require a new, dedicated staff responsible only for behaviour change and promotion of latrine use, not for latrine construction. Officers shall be rewarded for trying and learning from new ideas, whether they succeed or fail.

5. Learn from doing and learn from the best. The Government shall lead a programme of learning from successes, failures, and challenges of attempts to change behaviour and to promote latrine use. The Mission shall learn from the experiences of the Pulse Polio campaign, from leaders in the field of marketing, and from experts on rural sanitation behaviour.

two more!

Written by on June 11th, 2014

Two more of our articles came out today.

The first one, by Sangita, is titled Most rural Indians can afford a toilet but don’t want one.

The second one, by Diane and Dean, is called Can Modi’s next wave wash away open defecation?

Do read them.

A new paper and a new graph

Written by on November 13th, 2013

The rice team is busy preparing for the coming months of field research: surveyor training starts this weekend, and Aashish, Diane, and Sangita are talking through last weekend’s pilot qualitative interviews as I write.  Yesterday, I presented work in progress with Josephine on the disease environment and calorie consumption in India at the World Bank in Delhi.  But I wanted to take a minute to share two bits of research news.

First, my paper with Sneha Lamba about caste and the clean village prize has been published this week by the Journal of Development Studies.  You can read the paper here: Caste, ‘Cleanliness’ and Cash: Effects of Caste-Based Political Reservations in Rajasthan on a Sanitation Prize (apologies that they may try to charge you for it — if so, just read the identical working paper version)

Second, I’d like to share a new graph that makes a point we’ve been making in a new and, to me, visually striking way.  We have often written about sanitation and population density combining to explain the puzzling “Asian Enigma” that children in India are shorter, on average, than children in sub-Saharan Africa, even though they are also poorer, on average.  It turns out that the density of exposure to open defecation can completely account for this gap, in the sense that at the same level of exposure to open defecators per square kilometer, children in India are no shorter, and perhaps taller.

This picture presents that conclusion and the data behind it.  The data are from DHS surveys in India and sub-Saharan Africa, the exact same data and set of 28 surveys used in an important recent paper by Seema Jayachandran and Rohini Pande (one must choose a sample somehow, and it is convenient to follow other scholars’ lead, but it also works with other samples of DHS surveys).  The big circles are the overall means for India and the pooled sub-Saharan African data.  The small circles are averages from 75 equally sized divisions of the sample along the horizontal axis, by density of open defecation.  The two lines are local non-parametric regressions for the Indian and African samples.  You can see that the difference in average height between the two big dots can be accounted for by the gradients within the two samples.

Of course, this isn’t the whole story.  For example, nothing in this picture invokes the econometrics of cause and effect.  Moreover, this picture doesn’t explore the interesting fact that, because open defecation interacts with population density (other people’s germs are worse for your health if you are more likely to come into contact with them), and because population density is much lower in sub-Saharan Africa than in India, the sanitation-health gradient is much steeper in India.  For all of that you need the full research paper.  But I do think this figure helps persuade me that the regression and decomposition results are not merely a misleading statistical fluke.

Search for investigators for research on sanitation

Written by on October 8th, 2013

Search For Investigators

Click HERE to tell us you’re interested!

research institute for compassionate economics


Open defecation kills Indian children and stunts their growth.  Since open defecation is so bad for people, why do almost more than half of Indian households lack access to toilets?  We need your help to find out! Read on to find out more!


India has exceptionally poor sanitation: the country accounts for 60% of the incidence of open defecation in the world, and open defecation is important issue of human dignity and a cause of avoidable disease, mortality, and malnutrition (for more on this, see here). 


However, we do not understand very well the reasons why such a large proportion of the Indian population does not have access to toilets. The research institute for compassionate economics (rice) is looking for capable and hard-working investigators to help conduct the Sanitation Quality Use Access and Trends (SQUAT) survey in parts of rural India. This research will help understand why access to sanitation is low in India, while also identifying the various behavioral and policy bottlenecks in the path of toilet ownership and use in rural India. 


Investigators for this important survey will be trained, work in teams, and visit about 30 districts in eight states. This is full time work, starting mid-November, for five months.  rice will cover food, accommodation, travel and all related expenses. Investigators will be given vacation/rest time every few weeks.  We promise a fun and enriching experience, lots of learning, and decent salaries. If you are interested, please fill this form – applications are rolling, so we encourage you to fill it up NOW. We need both men and women; and candidates from all social backgrounds are encouraged to apply, but competency in Hindi is a must.  


For any queries, please write to [email protected].  We are looking forward to getting your form


On behalf of rice, 


rice work discussed in TIME magazine!

Written by on September 11th, 2013

Check out this link to a discussion of rice’s work on sanitation, stunting, and the height conference in TIME magazine.  You can also click on TIME’s picture reprinted here for a link to the story.



Learning from Arghyam… and other partners like you?

Written by on August 27th, 2013

Our team is always telling me that I have to put more pictures in my blog posts.  Unfortunately, in my quick trip to Bangalore last week to meet with Arghyam I didn’t actually get to go see any rural latrines, so what we are stuck with is a picture of me presenting:

with Arghyam in Bangalore

But the real purpose of this post is to thank my new friends in Arghyam for an interesting day where I learned about their new ideas for a Behavior Change Communication Program.  We talked about how, whenever we see rural sanitation programs carefully evaluated, again and again we see only a small effect on reduced open defecation, maybe a few percentage points.  This is hard for everybody, so testing creative solutions is necessary — which is exactly what Arghyam is doing.

Maybe you work with an organization trying something new to make a big dent in rural open defecation?  We would love to learn from you, too, and to work together to carefully measure the effects of your program.  Be in touch!

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