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

Accountability Initiative’s and r.i.c.e.’s paper got published in EPW!

Since October 2014, the Government of India has worked towards the goal of eliminating open defecation by 2019 through the Swachh Bharat Mission. In June 2014, the results of a survey of rural sanitation behaviour in North India were first reported. The results from a late 2018 survey that revisited households from the 2014 survey in four states—Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh—are presented. Although rural latrine ownership increased considerably over this period, open defecation remains very common in these four states. There is substantial heterogeneity across states in what the SBM did and how. These outcomes suggest the need for a transparent, fact-based public dialogue about the SBM, its costs and benefits, and its accomplishments and means.

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EPW published Payal and Nikhil’s paper on Caste Prejudice & Infection!

In light of India’s continuing efforts to reduce maternal
mortality, why government hospitals continue to be
dangerously unhygienic, posing serious infection risks to
patients, is explored. Through interviews and
observations at public hospitals in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar,
and Madhya Pradesh, we find that unhygienic practices
and behaviours by health staff abound, leading to an
environment with high potential for infection. Deep
caste prejudice against cleaners prevents the
professionalisation of their work, leaving them
overburdened and under-equipped to maintain
standards of hygiene. Casteist notions of cleanliness also
weaken rigorous implementation of infection control
measures by hospital staff. Rather than addressing these
deeper issues, antibiotics are routinely prescribed as a
shortcut to deal with the risk of hospital infection.

You can get the paper here!

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Prof. Amit Thorat, who is also a r.i.c.e. affiliate, interviewed for EPW’s podcast show

Prof Amit Thorat, who teaches at JNU and is also a visiting researcher at r.i.c.e., with his colleague Dr. Omkar Joshi, who is a doctoral scholar at the University of Maryland, was interviewed for the Economic and Political Weekly’s podcast show Research Radio. In the show, Prof Thorat and Dr Joshi talk about social groups in India that have a higher proportion of individuals who practice untouchability. To learn more about caste and the discriminatory practice of untouchability in India, and about the methods these researchers used to understand it, you can listen to the show here.

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EPW published r.i.c.e. paper on fuel use in rural north India!

Survey evidence from rural North India showing persistent solid fuel use despite increases in liquefied petroleum gas ownership is presented. Although three-quarters of survey households in these states had LPG, almost all also had a stove that uses solid fuels. Among those owning both, almost three-quarters used solid fuels the day before the survey. Household economic status, relative costs of cooking fuels, gender inequality, and beliefs about solid fuels were important contributors to high solid fuel use. To realise the full health benefits of the LPG expansion, attention must now be turned towards encouraging exclusive LPG use.

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Where India Goes named among best non-fiction books of the decade by The Hindu

Diane and Dean’s book Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development and the Costs of Caste has been named among the best non-fiction books the decade by The Hindu.

Reviewing for The Hindu, Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta observes, “This is a deeply researched and thoughtfully written book about open defecation, the role of caste, and the challenges of implementing policy interventions at this scale. Beyond these questions, it also reflects on the difficult road of development beyond conference platitudes and technocratic solutions. It points to the need for better exchanges between policymakers, development professionals and researchers if we are to reflect and act on some of the important questions of our times: Can economic development ever be sufficient without a focus on human development as well? Are there better ways to spur development among less served sections of the world’s population? With all the constraints, how can we do better for our poorer populations?”

This book is available on amazon and flipkart

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Measuring open defecation in India using survey questions: evidence from a randomized survey experiment published in BMJ Open

BMJ Open published “Measuring open defecation in India using survey questions: evidence from a randomized survey experiment”  co-authored by  Sangita, Nikhil, Dean and Diane (with Divya Mary, Neeta Goel, Sujatha Srinivasan, Ajaykumar Tannirkulam and Radu Ban).

Reducing open defecation in India is essential to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, and exposure to open defecation has consequences for child mortality and development, it is essential to accurately monitor its progress.

Open Defecation is an individual behaviour, consequently,  an individual-level survey question may be able to more accurately measure it compared with a household-level question, particularly among households with latrines. This study presents results from an experimental investigation of this hypothesis in rural India. The objective of the experiment was to investigate whether a balanced question about latrine use or open defecation for every member of a household finds different levels of open defecation compared with a household-level question.

The study shows that reported open defecation among all households is 20-21 percentage points higher in individual-level questions compared to the house-hold level questions.  Moreover, among households that received assistance to construct latrines,

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