Click to Subscribe & Stay Informed via Email!

Subscribe Here!

Subscribe and stay informed about our latest news and events!
  • Please List your Professional Affiliation
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

News Category: South Asia in the News

SAI responds to Executive Order

The South Asia Institute (SAI) fully endorses Harvard President Drew Faust’s response to the Trump Administration’s executive order restricting travel to the United States.

We offer our full support to Harvard students, faculty, staff and affiliates, regardless of their country of origin or religious background, alongside the Harvard International Office and the university’s Global Support Services. We encourage all South Asia scholars to apply for our programs.

The work of universities in the world has never been more vital. The SAI is committed to the advancement of global scholarship and understanding, and our work in this fascinating, important region will continue. Across many borders, our diverse students and scholars are aiming to generate knowledge and insights that transcend and outlive any temporary barriers to progress.

Harvard President Drew Faust: We Are All Harvard


Harvard International Office

Harvard Global Support Services

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Health crisis faces the Rohingya people of Myanmar

06Myanmar-master768After decades of discrimination, the Rohingya—a Muslim ethnic group living in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia and other southeast Asian countries—are experiencing a severe health crisis, according to a study co-authored by experts at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School.

In 1982, the Rohingya were stripped of citizenship in Myanmar (known as Burma before 1989), leaving them stateless. Since then they have faced a cycle of poor infant and child health, malnutrition, waterborne illness, and lack of obstetric care, according to the Lancet study. The researchers explore the Myanmar government’s poor treatment of the group and suggest steps that can be taken to address the health and human rights crisis.

Authors of the study included Jennifer Leaning, SAI Steering Committee member, and Arlan Fuller, director and executive director, respectively, of Harvard Chan School’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights; and Harvard Medical School’s Syed Mahmood (first author) and Emily Wroe.

Read a New York Times article about the study: Rohingya Face Health Care Bias in Parts of Asia, Study Finds

-Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

What Next? Trump and Asia

This article was published by the Asia Center.

161212_acthiswk_trump1_webWith Donald Trump’s surprising victory in becoming the next President of the United States next month, people are anxious to have some idea about his likely Asia policy. A panel of four experts was convened on December 5 by the Acting Director of the Harvard Asia Center, Professor Andrew Gordon, and moderated by Professor Susan Pharr of Harvard University, to interpret any related harbingers thus far.

Listen to audio of the event.

To unscramble Trump’s inscrutability, Professor Joseph Nye of the Harvard Kennedy School began by taking Trump’s words from his campaign trail. Although contradictory at times, Trump’s statements on American foreign policy, if taken literally, would represent a radical departure from the post-World War II liberal international order that successive American presidents had shaped through a network of security alliances and international institutions. To maintain this order, the U.S. has intervened militarily in far-flung places when necessary. Trump threatened to withdraw American troops from the military bases of allied countries if American allies don’t contribute more to the alliances. Judging from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s deft visit of Trump soon after Trump’s presidential victory and the fact that Japan already contributes more to the alliance than other American allies, Nye predicted that the U.S.-Japan alliance would “probably be OK.”

Continue reading →

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

South Asia In The News: India’s Cash Crisis November, the Indian government announced, with little warning, that the country would be withdrawing the legal status of its 500 and 1000 rupee notes, over 80% of the current currency in circulation. The effort to curb corruption has left many Indians in a state of chaos, with long longs forming as citizens wait to exchange their old notes for new ones. Below, are a series of articles written by SAI and Harvard affiliates.

Please note: The views expressed here belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the South Asia Institute.


India Wants a Cashless Society. But There’s a High Cost. – Slate
“There are long, debilitating queues for banks and ATMs. Wages and bills have not been paid. Rural Indians often have to travel a long way to reach a bank, and an estimated 300 million people don’t have the official ID that’s required to process a cash exchange. In some places, a barter economy has even re-emerged. That’s a marker of ingenuity, perhaps, but hardly the modernity that India is striving for. India’s most decorated economist, the Nobel Laureate and Harvard Professor Amartya Sen, says: ‘The move declares all Indians — indeed all holders of Indian currency — as possibly crooks, unless they can establish they are not.’ Meanwhile, the people with the most black money—the people the policy was intended to target—are unlikely to have wads of cash under their mattresses. Their money will be safe in foreign bank accounts and property holdings.”

Hasit Shah, SAI Research Affiliate


Continue reading →

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

A change called NeHA

This article was originally published in the Indian Express.

This is in follow up to the recently held Radcliffe Advanced Seminar, “Exchanging Health Information.”


By Satchit Balsari, Fellow at the FXB Center for Human Rights and Tarun KhannaJorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School; Director, South Asia Institute

Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a world where tapping a piece of glass in the palm of your hand would allow you to watch a movie, order food, hail a cab, or transfer money without leaving your couch. Through companies like Ola, Flipkart and Chaipoint, Indian entrepreneurs have moulded Silicon Valley’s best ideas to successfully meet local needs. Yet, a decade after the ways in which we search, navigate, buy, communicate and entertain ourselves have radically changed, health-services in India remain largely unaffected by the power of the internet. We archive doctor’s prescriptions, labs and X-ray results the same way we did decades ago. Polythene bags with scraps of paper, EKG strips, and scans are carefully stored in our homes and diligently carried from one doctor to the next, from one hospital to the other — and this is the best-case scenario. To date, the vast majority of Indians has no organised medical records, whether paper or electronic.

Continue reading →

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Student Voices: Resilient Design to Resilient Buildings: Quality Assurance in Nepal’s Remote Mountains

This is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Justin Henceroth, MDes Risk and Resilience, 2017, Harvard Graduate School of Design

There is little machinery available in remote parts of Nepal, so many construction tasks are done by hand, including bending rebar.

There is little machinery available in remote parts of Nepal, so many construction tasks are done by hand, including bending rebar.

The SUV slowed to a crawl as we prepared to cross the last of four causeways before we reached our destination—a construction site for a new police station in Dang District, Nepal. This site is not in the most remote part of Nepal, but in many ways this construction site embodies the challenges of building anything in this mountainous country. Despite being on the national East-West Highway, it took us nearly six hours to drive the 120 miles from the nearest city and the regional headquarters for UNOPS, the organization managing this project. It had not rained in over a week, so the road was clear, but the evidence of landslides lined the road for miles, and each causeway we crossed was still under a few inches of water. It was easy to understand how even a day of rain could quickly block some key section of this road—cutting off access between communities and the flows of people and materials.

As the reconstruction following last year’s earthquakes gets underway throughout Nepal, the limited access will prove a significant challenge for the communities, government agencies, humanitarian organizations, and donors that are all working to rebuild Nepal. Throughout the country, more than half a million homes need to be rebuilt, more than 30,000 classrooms have collapsed, and more than 400 health centers were completely destroyed. Many of the most damaged communities are in the remote hills that flank the Himalayas, with some villages accessible only by a multi-day walk.

Continue reading →

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Harvard Gazette: Animal Law & Policy Program to focus on Asia

Layer's battery cage in Bustan Hagalil, Israel

Layer’s battery cage in Bustan Hagalil, Israel

The South Asia Institute has partnered with the Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School, led by Kristen Stilt, to examine animal agriculture from the Middle East to Asia. The Program is hosting a workshop in May 2017 and is now accepting proposals.

This article was originally published in the Harvard Gazette.

In 2006, Jeff Thomas swore off animal products.

For the philanthropist and Duke-educated author it wasn’t one “aha” moment that turned him vegan and into an outspoken supporter of farm animals, it was a series of moments: dinner with a passionate vegetarian; the realization that a beautiful pet is essentially “no different from a beautiful cow”; the book “Animal Liberation” by Princeton philosopher Peter Singer.

Then there was the fundamental question about the human — and animal — condition.

“There is a logical path from existentially wondering how we can do the most good to helping farm animals,” said Thomas, adding: “Young people who are contemplating how to mitigate the most suffering should consider helping farm animals, where an ordinary person can positively affect millions of lives.”

Billions, in fact, when you count chickens.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 9 billion chickens, 115 million pigs, and 29 million cows were slaughtered in 2015 in the United States. Across the country, farmed animals are unprotected by any federal rules until shortly before slaughter and are exempt from the majority of state cruelty laws. Those facts stand in sharp contrast to a nationwide 2012 poll by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in which 94 percent of respondents said that animals raised for food should be free from abuse or cruelty.

Continue reading →

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Disease and politics: Lessons from Calcutta and Canton


Prerna Singh

There is no question that diseases have changed the course of humankind. Recent news stories about Zika, AIDS, and SARS show that disease is still a pressing public health concern. Like terrorism, disease does not respect political boundaries. Yet, those boundaries determine one’s likelihood to get a disease.

This distinction is what draws political scientists to study diseases, and was the focus of the October meeting of the Brown/Harvard/MIT Joint Seminar of South Asian Politics. Prerna Singh, Mahatma Gandhi Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs at Brown University gave a talk titled ‘New Potions in Old Bottles: Explaining the Differential Control of Smallpox in 19th Century Canton and Calcutta.’

Continue reading →

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Alum Q+A: Lessons from Dadabhai Naoroji

9780198076667Dinyar Patel, currently an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina, completed his PhD at Harvard and was previously a SAI Graduate Student Associate. His Harvard dissertation focused on the political thought of Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917), perhaps the most prominent Indian nationalist figure prior to Mohandas K. Gandhi. With S.R. Mehrotra, he recently co-edited a volume of selected correspondences from the Dadabhai Naoroji Papers, which was published by Oxford University Press over the summer. Many of the over 500 letters have never been published before.

SAI recently spoke to Patel about the project and why Naoroji is still so relevant today.

SAI: Why are these writings so important?

Dinyar Patel: This individual, Naoroji, kept in his collection as many as 50,000 documents, but only about 30,000 have survived up until today. What the collection ended up being was a lot of letters exchanged with prominent Indian and British political figures of the time. A lot of these figures are not terribly well-remembered in either country, but at the time they were leading political figures. For example, a socialist leader named Henry M. Hyndman exchanged a lot of colorful letters with Naoroji about socialism in Great Britain, Europe, and India. There were letters exchanged with people such as William Wedderburn, who was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress along with Naoroji. Both of them would talk about the need for political reform in India, and specifically, the need for Indians to contest parliamentary elections in Great Britain in order to reform India from within.

Continue reading →

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Student voices: Nepal in recovery

Peng4This is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Haibei PengMaster in Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2017

Haibei traveled to Nepal over the summer to work on her research project ‘The Nested Scale of Time: to protect and display biodiversity in South Asia through research on agriculture and seed bank.’

With the generous support from SAI Research Grant, I traveled through Nepal in May, 2016 for two weeks to conduct my thesis research on traditional Nepalese architecture and post-earthquake reconstruction in Kathmandu. During the two weeks I spent in Nepal, I traveled through Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan national forest while talking to local residents, friends, foreign workers, volunteers and international organizations. Even though Nepal remains a poor country with bad infrastructure and is still recovering from the earthquake disaster, people here are all very friendly, welcoming and seem to share a happy attitude towards life and their country. Below are some of the most stimulating findings from my research.

Continue reading →

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn