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

N-ISSUP publishes a short article on Diane’s research on neonatal mortality and facility birth in India

N-ISSUP, the online magazine of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, published a short article based on Diane’s paper “The association between neonatal death and facility birth in regions of India” published in the Demographic Research.

The article summarizes the main finding of the paper that there is important heterogeneity in the association between neonatal death (NNM) and hospital birth across regions in India. The country contributes more NNM to the global NNM than any other country in the world, yet the NNM of 30 per 1000 births masks wide spatial variations. For example, among states with more than 25 million people, Uttar Pradesh had the highest NNM at 45 per 1000, and Kerala had the lowest at 4 per 1000.

Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims to reduce global neonatal mortality (NNM) to 12 deaths per 1,000 births by 2030. Reducing NNM in India is critical to this goal because it accounts for 27% of global neonatal deaths. Diane suggests that it would be worthwhile for future research to compare how delivery and postpartum care practices differ across different regions in India.

Find more on this and a downloadable link of the original paper from our earlier blog post.

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The Wire bulletin covers r.i.c.e’s research on the solid fuel use and LPG ownership.

The Wire covered r.i.c.e’s new research on the persistence of solid fuel use despite increases in LPG ownership[report runs from 00 to 4:30 mins]. Here are some points covered in the bulletin:

The Pradhanmantri Ujjawal Yojna is often presented as a grand success, particularly in the ongoing election season. Most beneficiaries under the scheme, however, are forced to use traditional chulha for cooking.

A new research study by r.i.c.e finds that over 85 per cent of Ujjawala beneficiaries’ resort to using the traditional chulha because of the financial burden involved in refilling the gas cylinder.

The study conducted in the second half of 2018 in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh visited over 1550 households to understand more about the impact of Ujjawal scheme. These four states account for about 40 per cent of the total rural population of India.

Launched in 2016, the government provides a gas cylinder, regulator, and pipe for free, and gives loans to households for the stove and the gas in the first cylinder under the Ujjawala scheme. According to the central government, over 60 million families have benefitted from it; the current study found that 76 per cent of households in these parts of rural India have benefitted from this scheme.

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Check out our new research study on the persistence of soild fuel use despite increases in LPG ownership!

Exposure to air pollution has important consequences for public health. Several studies have held that a major source of air pollution exposure in rural India is the use of solid fuels, such as dung cakes and wood, for cooking and heating. High levels of indoor air pollution can kill infants, get in the way of healthy child development, and contribute to heart and lung disease.

In May 2016, the Indian government launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to promote the use of clean cooking fuel in rural India. Reducing the use of solid fuels is an important public health goal because it would reduce exposure to harmful indoor air pollution.  The central government claimed that by December 2018, 6 crore households had received access to LPG through the Ujjwala Yojana, and that 90% of all Indian households owned an LPG cylinder and stove.

An important question to be asking is how successful have these government initiatives been in reducing solid fuel use in rural India? This article addresses this question using data from a 2018 survey on fuel use which revisited households originally visited in 2014 in rural Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.

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Coercion, Construction, and ‘ODF Paper pe’ : Swachha Bharat According to Local Officials published in The India Forum

The India Foruma Journal Magazine on Contemporary Issues published our article “ Coercion, Construction, and ‘ODF Paper pe’: Swachha Bharat According to Local Officials.” This article is based on extensive qualitative interviews with government officials at the village and block levels across 11 districts in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. These local officials were entrusted with the implementation of the Swachha Bharat Mission at their Panchayat/blocks.

The paper sheds light on how the SBM is implemented on the ground. As the title of the paper suggests, there is widespread use of threats and coercion for latrine construction. Not only the villagers, the officials at villages and blocks were also under a lot of pressure to meet their construction targets, often in a limited time period, or else they would lose their job. The government’s impatience in declaring villages, blocks, districts and, eventually states, and the entire country ODF (Open Defecation Free) meant that the focus was mostly on the latrine construction and not on its usage. However, we found that many places that had been declared ODF still had significant levels of open defecation- they were declared ODF only on paper.

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Survey of Rural Sanitation and Solid Fuel Use, 2018, is publicly available now!

We are excited to announce that the data from our new survey on the status of rural sanitation and solid fuel use is publicly available now. The survey visited rural parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in September-December 2018 and collected data on 9,812 individuals living in over 1500 households. It covered rural sanitation behaviour, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, cooking fuel use, the Ujjawala Scheme, and several other topics.

This is an important region to be thinking about because it represents about 40 per cent of India’s rural population and home to 45 per cent of households without a toilet or latrine.  A significant fraction of all people worldwide who defecate in the open live in these four Indian states.   Our results, therefore, are relevant not merely to sanitation policy in India, but also to addressing the global sanitation challenge.

Growing up in India we all had heard about the famous saying, “gaon ki hawa aur shahar ki dawa ”  (roughly translated as [fresh] air of villages and [better] medicines in cities) can cure all illness. However, that is no longer the case as air in villages are getting increasingly polluted. 

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Nazar interviewed on DW News Asia!

Nazar was recently interviewed about the Swacch Bharat Mission on DW News Asia.  It was great that he was able to publicize the results of the 2018 Survey of Rural Sanitation and Fuel Use on TV!

Check out the news story and interview with Nazar on You Tube here.  (The whole story is certainly worth watching, but if you’re looking for Nazar’s interview in particular, it starts at 5:30.)

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Reducing open defecation in rural India is an important human development goal, but at what cost? Read Sangita’s piece in Hindustan Times

Sangita’s article in Hindustan Times raises some pertinent questions about the ways in which the Swachh Bharat Mission has been implemented. She draws attention to the fact that the Mission’s success in getting latrines constructed and the subsequent decline in the practice of open defecation has come about through the use of threats and coercion. In a survey of four north Indian states, every second person had heard of fines, denial of government benefits, and being stopped from defecating in the open, being used as tools to compel latrine construction and use in their own village. Some people were denied their rations, pensions, and other government benefits. Moreover, the survey finds that the use of force had a visible caste angle to it: Dalits were twice as likely while Adivasis were thrice as likely to be at the receiving end of threats and coercion. The implementation of the SBM has come at a cost to certain fundamental rights. She argues, “[T]he tactics employed by the SBM present important trade-offs that require public debate. Evaluating these trade-offs will at the very least require understanding how many people have been hurt because of the SBM, and how much it has accelerated the decline in open defecation....Read More..