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News Category: In Region


SAI Partition events: Lahore, Karachi and Delhi


All are invited to our special Partition events in August – the discussions, exhibitions and performances are free and open to the public.

Friday, August 4 – Habib University, Karachi

Monday, August 7 – Ali Institute of Education, Lahore

Thursday, August 10 – Bikaner House, New Delhi

 

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“Wastage of food is not less than a social delinquency”


Our India Country Director, Sanjay Kumar, has written a powerful op-ed in The Hindu newspaper about the issue of food wastage in the country. He writes:

Food wastage has multiple socio-economic and environmental impacts. In a country like India, not only is food scarce for many poor families, it is a luxury for many others. Though hunger cannot be tackled directly by preventing food wastage, a substantial amount of food that is wasted in our country can feed many hungry people. India ranked 97th among 118 countries in the Global Hunger Index for 2016. About 20 crore people go to bed hungry and 7,000 people die of hunger every day; wastage of food is not less than a social delinquency.

Read the full piece here.

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Does the Fight for Working Women’s Rights in India Leave Out Informal Workers?


Tata Trusts and Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) recently embarked on a collaborative journey in knowledge creation and capacity building for social and economic empowerment in India. The 18-month research project titled, Livelihood Creation in India through Social Entrepreneurship and Skill Development (beginning October 2015) was the first step in this direction. The project focused on three key areas including rural livelihood creation (emphasis on the handicrafts and handloom sectors); educational, social and economic empowerment of women; and science and technology-based interventions for poverty alleviation.

There is consensus that India’s future growth depends in part on addressing the severe current deficit in gender equality. Much work has been done to address this discrimination through legislation, social policy, grass roots organizing, educational targeting, and public sector training. Despite the imperative of higher education as a preparation for engagement in a skill based global economy, only 6% of rural girls make it to college. 46%of Indian girls are still married before they are 18, and 16% experience their first pregnancy before they are 15 years old. At the same time, sexual violence against women continues to be reported at high levels—every third Indian woman between the ages of 15 and 49 years has experienced sexual or physical violence during her lifetime. Women are severely underrepresented in leadership positions in industry, academia, and government.

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Inaugural Harvard B4 Fellowship Opens New Doors for Postdocs


Left to Right: Venki Murthy, Ramya Purkanti, Gayatri Ramakrishnan, Parvathi Sreekumar, and Praveen Anand

One year ago when Parvathi Sreekumar earned her PhD in Crop Physiology at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India, she never would have guessed that today she’d be halfway around the world, learning computational biology and bioinformatics to study bacteria in Philippe Cluzel’s lab. Yet here she is in Cambridge, along with three other research fellows from Bangalore who were awarded the inaugural Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings (B4) Fellowship, co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute (SAI) at Harvard University and the Institute for Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) in Bangalore. The four fellows, selected from over 52 applicants, earned their PhDs in different fields from different institutes in India, but all now share the unique experience of spending 11 months pursuing research in a completely new direction at Harvard. “Being part of this fellowship is broadening my research exposure and equipping me with new skills that I can go home and implement in India. I’m grateful that students from diverse fields are being given an opportunity like this,” says Sreekumar.

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Looking Back, Informing the Future: The 1947 Partition of British India


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Professor Jennifer Leaning discusses forced migration at one of our Partition seminars

 

By Tarun Khanna (Director, SAI; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School)

Both my mother’s and my father’s sides of our family migrated from what is now Pakistan. As a result of Partition, many of them had to leave their lives behind, with years of hard work quickly wiped out, when they moved to New Delhi and were forced to start again. Partition has always been part of my family’s folklore but my grandfather, who bore the brunt of it, passed away very early. I never had the opportunity to discuss it with him.

At the SAI, we have embarked on a major research project to understand the history, context and continuing impact of Partition, as its 70th anniversary approaches. There has, of course, always been a great deal of interest in this defining historical event from scholars at Harvard and elsewhere. Professor Jennifer Leaning’s team from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been studying Partition for more than a decade — her ongoing work is central to our collective research.

At the SAI, we have already undertaken a major interdisciplinary project of a similar scale. Our work on the Kumbh Mela was a very successful collaborative effort involving dozens of faculty, students, graduates and undergraduates. We created a platform so that other people could participate; scholars from the region as well as other universities around the world. We produced scholarly papers, videos, architectural designs and ultimately, a book.

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President of India honors Harvard Research Fellow


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Dr Satchit Balsari – a frequent and highly-valued South Asia Institute collaborator – received a prestigious Dr BC Roy National Award from Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, at a ceremony in New Delhi earlier this month. He was honored for outstanding services in the field of sociomedical relief.

Dr Balsari is a Research Fellow at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and Director of the Global Emergency Medicine Program at Weill Cornell Medical College/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

His inter-disciplinary interests in mobile technology, disaster response and population health have been informed by his clinical practice in New York City and his field work around the world including, more recently, in Jordan, Iraq, South Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. His research has resulted in innovative applications of mobile, cloud-based technology to address public health challenges in mass gatherings, disasters and humanitarian crises.

At the FXB Center, Dr Balsari’s research has contributed to advocacy on behalf vulnerable populations affected by disasters and humanitarian crises, including children in Haiti, refugees in Jordan and the Rohingya in Bangladesh. He is currently part of Professor Jennifer Leaning’s team assessing the impact of the Syrian war on medicine and public health in the region

At Harvard, Dr Balsari co-teaches a university-wide course “Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems,” led by SAI Director Professor Tarun Khanna; and “Societal Response to Disaster and War”, with Professor Leaning at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

In the summer of 2017, Dr Balsari will join Harvard Medical School as faculty in emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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Building Budding Brain Biologists: Harvard’s inaugural B4 Program in India


In the gleaming academic fortress of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, India, MCB professor Venkatesh Murthy and Advisor/Preceptor Laura Magnotti spent two weeks over winter break giving 25 engineering and computer science students a crash course in something completely different: neuroscience. The Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginning (B4) Program, which is administered by the Harvard South Asia Institute, hand-selected the participants from about 150 undergraduate and graduate student applicants from all over India. It is supported by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology and the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Information Technology & Biotechnology. Through a series of five daily sessions consisting of three lectures, one presentation by a local scientist, and one hands-on demo that included activities from dissecting a goat brain to recording action potentials from a cricket leg, the students gained a comprehensive knowledge of the field of neuroscience, basic concepts, and how to apply them. “Teaching this short winter course to smart and enthusiastic students without much of a neuroscience background was gratifying because we could see in real time how excited and awestruck they became about the brain,” says Murthy, director of the B4 program.

Why teach neuroscience to students who are committed to degrees in other fields? “The educational system in India is very narrow. There are no general education requirements; once a student enters university, they pretty much only take courses in their declared field of study,” says Magnotti. Murthy himself was educated in that system at the Indian Institutes of Technology: “I only learned about biology as a research endeavor when I came to the US for grad school, and then I ended up making a career out of it. If India’s brightest students don’t know that some of the questions and ideas they come up with can be applied to solve problems in other fields, they might never do that.” The three NCBS PhD students who were teaching assistants for the B4 course – Siddharth Jayakumar, Sahil Moza, and Mostafizur Rahman –  agree. “I honestly wish I had access to such a course when I was a curious undergraduate student in India thinking about the brain,” says Moza.

Neuroscience is a logical gateway for bridging the gap between engineering and biology. “In the B4 program we describe neurons as electronic circuits, and axons as cables,” explains Magnotti, “and lots of theories from engineering and electronics are easily applicable to neurobiology. These are real applications of the concepts the students have already been learning, so they don’t have to start completely over in order to explore the new field of biology.”

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Student voices: Learning How to Navigate Big City Labor Markets in Small-Town India


kunal2This is part of a series of reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Kunal Mangal, PhD Public Policy, 2021, HKS

I had two main goals for this visit. The first was to develop and pilot a survey on career awareness, in collaboration with my partner organization, LEAP Skills Academy. The second was to develop relationships that would be helpful in allowing me to continue to this work in the future. In this report I’ll describe the progress I made on each of these goals.

Based on my observations the past summer, I felt that students in small-town Haryana generally lacked awareness about careers outside of their local labor market, and hypothesized that this lack of awareness may lead students to under invest in their skills (relative to what they would have preferred to do if they had full information). The primary purpose of the survey was to test the underlying assumptions of this hypothesis.

Since writing my grant proposal, I decided to refine my research question in several ways. I focused my survey on the specific knowledge students had of what employers expected from them. The fact that English and computer skills are generally valued in the private sector seems to be well known; the uncertainty seems to lie in what firms are specifically looking for in candidates when they interview them. However, a challenge in taking this approach is that different sectors of the economy can have very diverse requirements of job seekers. After talking to LEAP trainers and local professors, I decided it would be best to focus on IT-related degrees. The advantage of doing this is that students in IT-related degrees are typically positioning themselves for a single sector of the economy, where companies tend to have similar requirements and expectations. This lends itself to measuring knowledge with an objective test.  

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Mar. 20 – 31: Visiting Artists at Harvard


SAI is pleased to announce our Visiting Artists for the Spring semester, who will be at Harvard from March 20 – 31. During their time at Harvard, the artists will display their work on campus, meet with students, attend courses, and give a public seminar.

Check back on our site for details about the seminars.

Madhu DMadhu Das is a multi-disciplinary Visual Artist based in Mumbai, India; his artistic practice is primarily concerned with the projection of identity onto the social and natural world: in a way that the two are woven together in the Indian space (both mythic space and actual); Exploring both conceptual and material sensibilities through range of media including drawing and painting, photography, performance, video, site-specific interventions, collaborative community projects and interactive/performative installations.

In his work, human body often establish an improvisational relationship with object and sculptural elements in the space. The work has involved the spaces in both a narrative sense and as a site of memory to re-narrate historical events as a way of plotting connections between the particular and the universal. Subjectively, he adapt aspects of material culture as well as methods from anthropology, allegorical fiction as conceptual tool, which later extends to the space of the viewer, from the point of a storyteller, exploring exciting linguistic devices and imagery with a sense of irony and paradox.

Das received his Masters of Arts (Painting) from S N School of Fine Arts and Communication, Central University of Hyderabad, India in 2013. Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) from College of Fine Art, Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, Bangalore, India 2009. He was awarded the Inlaks Fine Arts Award, Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation, India (2015) and Shortlisted for Emerging Indian Visual Artists by Delfina Foundation, UK (2014).

 

IMG_0452Rabindra Shrestha is a Nepalese visual artist. Installation, detail pen and ink drawing, painting, traditional painting (Paubha), illustration, cartoon, and ceramic art are the different mediums of his visuals expressions. Most of his art is directly conceptual based. The collaborative line art project, Earthquake line and Finger prints with red line are some of his series in the Nepali contemporary art scene. Many people refer to him as a “Line Artist”. Shrestha’s works has been exhibited throughout the National Fine Art exhibition (nine times), Kochi-Muzirise Biennale 2014 (India), and Asian Art Biennale (Bangladesh). He secured the National Special Award (NAFA) from National Academy of Fine Arts three times, and was a winner of the US embassy Art Competition (Nepal).

 

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