This opinion piece was originally published in The Boston Globe.
By Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School; SAI Steering Committee Member
THE UNITED STATES has a major opportunity this month to return to a close security and economic partnership with India — a priority of the last three American presidents. The new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, signaled he wants to get beyond the problem-ridden last few years between Delhi and Washington by inviting President Obama to be the “chief guest” at India’s elaborate Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26. This simple but important symbolic gesture may kickstart the revival both countries have been looking for.
Modi is seeking expanded ties between the world’s two most powerful democracies with one, major purpose in mind. His electoral mandate is to rejuvenate India’s sluggish economy. With 1.2 billion people and a burgeoning middle class, Modi is going all out to raise India’s GDP growth rate from an anemic (for India) 4.5 percent to over 7 percent for the years ahead.
At an Aspen Strategy Group meeting in Delhi I attended this past weekend, Indian government and business leaders made a persistent pitch for greater US investment capital and trade to help India emerge from its economic doldrums. And, in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry challenged both countries to increase trade fivefold in coming years. In his first year in office, Modi has launched a New Deal-type crusade to reform the top-heavy Indian economy, clear away burdensome state regulations, and free the entrepreneurial spirits of the Indian people.
Modi is also engineering a massive infrastructure renewal by financing major investments in railroads ($100 billion alone), ports, roads, energy, and education. Indian planners say they need to build a city the size of Chicago annually to accommodate a rapidly urbanizing population. But a new wave of foreign investment won’t happen unless Modi pushes real reform measures through Parliament.
India and the United States are also drawn together by a common interest in countering terrorist and cyber threats. They are also focused on a newly assertive China under Xi Jinping’s leadership. Indian leaders complain that China continues to contest their disputed land border and is executing a “string of pearls’’ naval strategy by establishing access rights to ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to hem in the Indian Navy in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
This aggressive Chinese strategy has prompted India to seek closer naval and air cooperation with the United States as well as Japan, Australia, and the Philippines. Concerns about China will unite India and the United States in common cause for the decade to come. Both want to engage China economically and on issues such as climate change and proliferation. But neither is willing to see China dominate the critical sea lanes of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea through which a major share of the world’s energy and container traffic are shipped. India wants the US military to remain a major presence in the region. And many senior Indians argue that the United States should reconsider plans to remove its military from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 lest the Taliban be unleashed.
Obama will be received warmly in this vast country whose people have a genuinely upbeat view of the United States. Still, Washington has significant differences to work out with India on global trade talks, climate change, the frozen civil nuclear deal, and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea. Many here and in the United States also worry about Modi’s ties to the extremist Hindu nationalist movement the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). These are not insignificant problems in this unique but sometimes frustrating partnership. But the long-term trend lines are mostly positive, which gives Obama and Kerry an opening to refashion ties with this key Asian rising power.
Nicholas Burns will chair a SAI Special Event on Wednesday, Jan. 28, titled ‘The Politickle Pickle: A Conversation on Indo-US Relations‘ with Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institution.
Broken Memory, Shining Dust, which was screened at a SAI event in December, is a documentary directed by Nilosree Biswas that depicts the extraordinary journey of Kashmiri women experiencing loss, separation, pain, anger, helplessness, faith, grit and determination amidst societal tragedies and circumstances.
Woven around the life of Parveena Ahanger, a Kashmiri mother and other women, the film is about “women in wait” for their loved ones, who went missing in the conflict ridden valley of Kashmir, India, in last two decades, and interweaves their memories of struggle and devotion into a resistance movement.
SAI recently spoke to Biswas from her base in Mumbai about the “women in wait,” as well as Kashmir’s unique culture, the effects of political conflict on women, and a filmmaker’s role in depicting a conflict area.
SAI: To start, can you give some context – what is going on in Kashmir, and why were you drawn to tell this story?
Nilosree Biswas: I had been making documentaries for a very long period of time, and in 2007 I was in a village in the northern part of Kashmir, which consisted of only widows who had lost their husbands to conflict, or had been picked up by the militants. In the process, I came across research about forced disappearances, which is something that has happened in Southeast Asia, and in our part of the world in India and Pakistan, and has had a big impact on society.
In the process, I also found out about Paraveena Ahanger, and over the next 4 years I repeatedly went back and forth to Kashmir and went to villages to meet many of these women, hundreds, who have lost either their husband or sons. This whole sense of trying to understand ‘wait’ from the women’s point of view was part of the process. More than the political aspect, it is understanding how women cope with the phenomenon of disappearances that appealed to me as a filmmaker
SAI: Can you talk more about Paraveena Ahanger – I found her to have so much strength and courage for the work that she is doing. Where does that come from for the women, after struggling for so long without their family members?
NB: When I first met her, I was completely astonished by the courage of this mother, and her journey of searching for her son Javed in all the detention camps and prisons and army outposts. It’s a huge journey. I think women like Paraveena have a sense of resilience in them.
On top of that, the Kashmiri society and geography is very closed off – it is surrounded by high mountain ranges; it is a Himalayan territory. I personally think that there is a connection between the geographical factors that impact people. The harsh winters, the hardships of life generally in the villages of Kashmir are what can make a person resolute.
Another most important thing that I realized after a number of visits is how the culture of this particular society in Kashmir has a huge Sufi influence and faith system, which is not so much practiced in Islam throughout the world – it is slightly deviant. Yet, it is a strong and peaceful belief system that the local society has followed for years. In the film, you see her [Paraveena] praying, and there are shots of her going to shrines, which she does on a regular basis.
I think there is a huge amount of spiritual and active faith system working within these women, because otherwise, if we take it on a regular day-to-day basis, we will never be able to cope with the fact that our young sons and husbands and brothers have been taken. Coping with this needs something extra, and I think the women of Kashmir are very faith-bound. The Sufism, which is practiced in Kashmir, gives them a huge amount of strength.
SAI: Were the women receptive to you telling their story? Do they want the world to know what has happened?
NB: There are two sections of women [in Kashmir]. One section is made of women like Paraveena, who had gone ahead and made it their mission in life to find out what happened to their sons, brothers, and husbands. Another section includes women who are getting drawn to the movement which Paraveena had started, so they are slowly becoming aware of the justice system, which they think can give them a solution or conclusion. If there is a third category, it is the women who do not have access to the justice system, or who are far away from the resources which would enable them a kind of justice.
It is a universal story, because when I see Paraveena, and I see her resilience, I easily equate the struggle with South American mothers, for example, or Indonesian mothers, or African mothers, or anyone in a conflict-ridden society.
SAI: One thing that is striking about the film is your use of poetry throughout the narrative.
NB: I used that technique because, as a filmmaker, whenever I had seen a film based on a conflict-ridden society, there was always a certain stereotyping in terms of the directorial narrative. For example, if there is a film about Congo, or Palestine, or Peru, there would be a certain kind of narrative. I wanted to avoid that. And because my perspective was entirely from a woman’s point of view, I wanted to use poetry that would bind the entire narrative.
SAI: As a filmmaker, what kind of role do you see film and documentaries, and more generally, art, playing in activism and social change?
NB: I have just completed a photographic book on Kashmir. What we have done as a team is we have tried to have an image of Kashmir which is beyond the conflict. There is life beyond the army outposts in any conflict-ridden area, be it Afghanistan, Iraq, or Palestine.
I have tried to capture that life in this photographic book. For example, how a small child going to school, or a woman who is out on the road to make a living, are going about their daily life. I have tried to capture the life of common people whose destiny is not associated with the larger conflict of the place. So this is what a filmmaker or photographer can do. Instead of continuously projecting the bloodshed or the gory war, or issues of crisis, one can also project life that is ongoing – a narrative of the daily life.
The culture of Kashmir is very distinct. There, every day, a small boy or girl goes out early in the morning and gets handmade bread and enjoys it with an early cup of tea. And while going to the baker from one’s home, one will cross five army outposts. Kashmir has one of the highest army to civilian ratios in a peace period of time, only ranking behind Afghanistan. Wherever they [the civilians] are, they can not avoid these army postings.
As a filmmaker, photographer, or artist, all of us have the responsibility to project these elements of life in conflict. There can be visuals of a conflict area that go beyond the bombing sites and scenes of destruction. Eventually, this can help inform public opinion that may draw the attention of policy makers, and result in a better understanding of the situation. In a country like India or China, it is very complex.
SAI: You said you made this film from a woman’s perspective – what are your thoughts on how men and women experience these types of conflicts differently?
NB: There is a difference in approach between men and women in Kashmir. For example, for Paraveena, she was the one who took up this battle [of justice for the disappeared]. Still today, she is the one who has continued. She has four children, and her youngest daughter has taken it upon herself to fulfill the mission. However, Javed’s [Paraveena’s son] father, who was equally sad and depressed about the situation, had moved on with life.
I think the attitude with which men generally have is that after a point, they would let it go. The sustaining of many advocacy groups [like Paraveena’s] is largely because they have a woman leader. This helped me understand, from a gender point of view, how the conflict impacted the women more.
While researching the conflict, I found that many movies, films, and documentaries prepared on the Kashmir conflict in India, are, either coincidentally or rationally, led by women. In many cases, women have taken an active role in disseminating the whole situation to the rest of the media.
SAI: What does the future hold for Kashmir, and these women?
NB: I think the future of Kashmir is a very complex scenario. In a way, the Kashmiri people are extremely resilient, that for the last decades they have battled the conflict and they have moved on in life. That is the future of Kashmir. Life has to go on in Kashmir – it shouldn’t be crippled under the pressure of the state. The filmmakers, the artist, the poets, and everyone involved in media, should have active participation in continuing the dialogue of Kashmir with state representatives and stakeholders in whatever form they can. The state should not forget about the crisis of Kashmir, and that it is integral to India.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
On January 9 and 10, the Harvard US-India Initiative hosted is Annual Conference in New Delhi, with support from SAI.
Keynote speakers included Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy in the Government of India, Mirai Chatterjee, Director of Social Security, SEWA, and Shri Jairam Ramesh, MP Rajya Sabha, former Cabinet Minister.
HUII is an undergraduate student-run organization at Harvard that aims to create dialogue between Indian and American youth to address some of India’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues today.
Below is an excerpt from a report on the conference:
“If yesterday’s events urged participants to immerse themselves in the world of ideas, today’s panelists gave us diverse and exceptional examples of how to apply these ideas in practice. We explored the treatment of women from the womb to the workplace on the Girl Child and Yes Ma’am panels. We discussed the ethics and efficacy of the nonprofit world in several of our afternoon sessions. Our keynote speaker this morning, Mirai Chatterjee, gave us an eye-opening presentation on the detail and planning that is involved in the roll out of universal healthcare. Our discourse today was characterized by representation from different areas of the public sphere, yet each of the panelists placed a certain conscious emphasis on creating value.
Yet, in every sphere— public and private, urban and rural, conservative and liberal—today’s presenters stressed the importance of assigning value to what we do. As our country enjoys greater importance on an international stage, we must look to development of our own social consciousness in every sphere. In India, a country that shelters one-fifth of humanity, the narrative that our generation crafts cannot be the narrative of our forefathers—we simply cannot afford it. The cost of moving forward without attention paid to our conscience and moral growth is too heavy for our society, government and even economy to bear.” - Zeenia Framroze, Harvard College’15
Highlights from Twitter:
Harvard US India Initiative was the best thing to happen to me !! pic.twitter.com/dY6HbDYGKh
— Archna Yadav (@archnaysblog) January 12, 2015
provocative and enlightening two days at HUII 2015, with accomplished personalities from all walks of life #harvard_us_india_initiative
— AAKANKSHA MIRDHA (@mirdhaaakanksha) January 12, 2015
Pearls of wisdom – integrity, competence and diversity – from Jayant Sinha’s at #HUII15.
— Aakash Aggarwal (@aakashsays1) January 10, 2015
— Sunit Jain (@Dhoklebaaz) January 10, 2015
“Change is the name of the game” Jairam Ramesh today at Harvard US India Initiative.
— Surbhi Arora (@surbheeee) January 9, 2015
Ideas are bullet proof says one of the speakers (Gautam Patel). Frees speech is not about comfort or conformity. #HUII15
— nikhil dey (@deydreaming) January 9, 2015
By Payal Narain, Program Consultant, SAI Delhi Office
On January 9, 2015, the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI), Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, and the Population Foundation of India (PFI) co-hosted a day-long seminar on “Addressing Gender Norms through Education: Developing and Implementing Adolescent Curriculum” in New Delhi.
The aim of the seminar was to formulate a research agenda and constitute a group of partners representing government, researchers, non-government organizations and academicians. Held at the PFI office, the seminar was well attended by representatives from the state and central government, civil society and the academic community. In all, there were 28 invited participants, including two who Skyped in from Boston.
Education is crucial to re-orienting gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles, and has the potential to address gender based discrimination and violence by altering patriarchal and repressive mindsets. Though there have been many attempts to create educational frameworks that address gender norms, a comprehensive nationwide program is yet to be implemented.
There is a need for a framework that promotes healthy attitudes about gender and sexual health, empowers young people with accurate, age appropriate and culturally relevant information that is accessible and engaging, and develops skills to enable them to respond to situations in a gender-sensitive manner.
The seminar explored these needs in three separate sessions, new developments and the implementation of middle school, high school and college curriculum. The fifth and final session of the seminar was devoted to discussions for the creation of a three-year action plan to develop and implement educational curriculum for adolescents to address gender norms.
The first session started with a welcome address by Meena Hewett, SAI Executive Director, followed by an introduction and background to the Harvard Gender Violence Project by Jacqueline Bhabha, FXB Director of Research; Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Lecturer in Law, Harvard Law School; Adjunct Lecturer, Harvard Kennedy School. Akshay Mangla, Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School, presented an overview of the current state of gender-relevant curriculum in middle school, high school, and college.
The first session ended with a presentation by Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India on the organization’s innovative developments in communicating gender roles and changing stereotypes.
During the conference, SAI reinforced its commitment to supporting faculty-lead programs to address gender issues, both in-region and at Harvard. Professor Bhabha outlined the history of the Harvard Gender Violence Project that came into being in the wake of the brutal rape that took place in Delhi in December 2012, which sent shock waves throughout the world. South Asian students influenced Harvard faculty to convene to discuss this issue.
In India, the three-member Justice Verma committee was set up to report on the case, and suggest amendments to the law to prevent and punish sexual offences. The committee reached out to Professor Diane Rosenfeld, Gender Violence Program, Harvard Law School, for her viewpoint and inputs on criminal laws on sexual assault.
Subsequently, SAI became involved, and in July 2013 the organized an interdisciplinary conference on ‘Gender Justice and Criminal Law Reform’ in Delhi which was attended by leading law-makers, including the two surviving members of the Verma committee, police officials, education specialists, researchers and gender activists. Professor Akshay Mangla of Harvard Business School also joined the Harvard Gender Violence team. A seminar was held at the Radcliffe Institute in August 2014 and a webinar on tackling gender based violence was held by Professor Bhabha in November 2013.
During the first session, Professor Mangla gave a brief overview of his research and other available data on the current state of gender-relevant curriculum in middle school, high school and college. Survey results showed that while there was a wide gap in the policy and delivery of sex education, there was a clear demand – not only from women, but from men, who also thought that sex education was necessary.
Professor Mangla presented statistical data regarding the appropriate age to initiate gender based education, and who should impart it: parents or teachers. However, due to deep-seated taboos on the subject, parent-child and teacher-child communication is often poor, so often awareness is lacking. Clearly, innovation is needed to address this issue.
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, PFI, outlined the work of PFI, and highlighted the 2013 introduction of PFI’s very successful and innovative tool, entertainment education, in the form of a transmedia serial – Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (I, a Woman can Achieve Anything) to communicate gender roles and implement behaviour change. The success of the program in its first season was based on feedback from viewers, which showed that this medium could reach out to the masses on a large scale, both in urban and in rural India.
The second session, facilitated by Akshay Mangla, addressed Middle School Curriculum Development and obstacles to implementation.The panelists included Maninder Kaur Dwivedi, Executive Director (Transport), Food Corporation of India (FCI), Shantha Sinha, Professor, Former Chair, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Hyderabad and Prabha Nagaraja, Executive Director, Talking about Reproductive Health and Sexual Issues (TARSHI).
Government policy and adolescent education materiel in textbooks were also discussed. It was stated that much of the materiel available does not communicate the required gender values. While a number of government programs under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), like the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Program (KGBV), and the Mahila Samakhya Scheme (MS), focus on encouraging education for the girl child, some Indian states were currently showing a drop in enrollment of boys. Therefore, state policy should be formulated taking local concerns into account. Many girls in school are exposed to gender-based violence – from mental to actual physical assault.
The need to scale up good pilot projects was stressed during the session, since the schemes launched were not achieving the necessary targets. Programs for scholarships and residential spaces for girls need expansion. There was further discussion regarding a change in nomenclature – Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), instead of sex education, since many are apt to misinterpret this. It was also thought that CSE should start at the kindergarten level, to teach children about their body parts and sensitize them regarding ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’.
Session III of the event discussed the development of, and obstacles to implementation of Curriculum at the High School level and innovative practices. Jacqueline Bhabha facilitated the session with panelists Gurjot Kaur, Additional Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary, Women and Child Development, Rajasthan, Kanchan Mathur and Shobhita Rajagopal, Institute of Development Studies, and Ravi Verma, Director, International Center for Research on Women.
The panel discussed a male-centric approach to understanding the concept of masculinity through the Gender Equality Movement in Schools (GEMS) mainly related to HIV-AIDS awareness. This GEMS diary was inculcated into the school curriculum and provided a platform for parent-child interaction on gender sensitive issues. The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and the Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSJ) are government schemes that focus on secondary education and their relevance was discussed. The KSJ seeks to empower adolescent girls through nutrition and informal education, through a girl-to-girl approach. Girls wanting to go for more advanced studies face several obstacles that cause them to quit, in spite of their aspirations. Therefore, it is important to highlight success stories.
Session IV discussed College Curriculum, with Akshay Mangla facilitating. Panelists included Keshav Desiraju, Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Government of India, Mary E. John, Professor and Senior Fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, and Aparajita Gogoi, Executive Director, Centre for Catalyzing Change.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) Saksham Report on steps taken for women’s safety and gender sensitisation in colleges and its depressing results were discussed. Either the minimum, or none, of the safety requirements were in place. Reform in teacher curriculum was urgently required – primary and secondary school teachers had some training related to gender issues, whereas this was completely lacking at the college level. Some participants recommended that the curriculum be developed in tandem with parents and teachers.
The panel also perceived greater scope for safe residential spaces for girl students so that they can be distanced from the negative impact of the home, since even the home is not a particularly safe zone for young women. Parallels were also drawn between incidents of sexual violence in Indian colleges and those that took place on campuses overseas.
The final session discussed the Next Steps for addressing gender norms in education, facilitated by Professor Bhabha. The key recommendations were that interventions by key stakeholders, family, schools, government, and non- governmental interventions were necessary to formulate and implement curriculum for adolescent education. SAI is ideally placed to convene such programs and scale up partnerships moving forward.
“We want a better India,” reads the slogan for the Harvard US-India Initiative’s (HUII) Annual Conference in New Delhi on January 9 and 10, 2015.
HUII is an undergraduate student-run organization at Harvard that aims to create dialogue between Indian and American youth to address some of India’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues today.
The conference, which is cosponsored by SAI, is set to take place at the Shangri La Hotel, and is the largest yet for the organization. It boasts an impressive lineup of speakers and panel topics, including ‘Liberal Arts and Conservative Societies,’ ‘Politicians and the People,’ ‘More Artists or More Dentists,’ ‘Human Rights in India,’ ‘The Economics of Rural India,’ and ‘Science and Society.’
Keynote speakers include Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy in the Government of India, Mirai Chatterjee, Director of Social Security, SEWA, and Shri Jairam Ramesh, MP Rajya Sabha, former Cabinet Minister.
SAI recently talked to Namrata Narain, Harvard College ’15, one of the organizers of the event, to learn more about how HUII is working to increase discussions on important issues by connecting young academic communities in India and the US.
Namrata Narain: In the past couple of years, India has seen a huge change in its fortune. Two or three years back, the Indian economy was downgraded to an almost “junk” status by multiple financial agencies across the world. But after the elections in early last year, things started looking better; a new government came into power which promised development and an economic agenda to free the country from its socialist hangover.
All of us Indian international students at Harvard sat down and were talking about this change in India, and we thought that the time was right to talk about how we, as students, could participate in this larger trend of people moving forward, not just economically but ideologically. I think we are at a wonderful position now to contribute to this discussion on how India can be made better.
For the last couple of years, the larger narrative was focused on what was wrong with India, and I think in this conference, we are going to focus more on how we can make those wrongs right.
SAI: That’s great that you have a positive approach to the issues rather than negative.
NN: Exactly, because that generally does reflect the spirit of India right now. There is much more optimism, and the current government has an approval rating of 70%, which is unprecedented. There is a general feeling of happiness and optimism in the country.
[Based on the interest in the conference] there is a general belief that everyone can do something to improve India, which is very different from my parents’ generation, who thought individual efforts would go unnoticed. That is what we are going to embody in the conference – how we can individually contribute, one step at a time.
We are incredibly excited to interact with the speakers. We have made sure that each speaker has an incredible reputation in their field. We have journalists who are known throughout the country for being fair and un-biased and are extremely popular. We have professors from the best universities coming. We have the biggest names in the government.
We have all these incredible people who are where they are because they are extremely smart, and I think interacting with them and with each other will help us get a wider idea about what people are thinking about these problems.
SAI: What do you see as some of the challenges facing higher education in India, and what do you think the US and India could learn from each other?
NN: I think the Indian education system is interesting in how it sees the people who come first. For the students who are at the top of their high school or of their state, there are incredible opportunities and wonderful universities who produce all the leaders this country has. But, for people not in the top 5%, the education system is absolutely abysmal, and abysmal to the point that a lot of my very good friends go to universities where no one feels they need to work hard towards education. I’m unsure of why that is, which is why we have so many questions in the panel [on education at the conference].
One thing, in my opinion, that the best universities in the West can teach Indian universities is this value of academic honesty. At Harvard, I found it extremely difficult to come to terms with how absolutely honest I had to be in my work; this was a very new concept for someone who came from an education system that did not care or value original thought. I think the Indian system stands to gain a lot from honest academic research work that initiates original thought.
SAI: Can you talk a little about HUII’s mission, and what the group aims to do in the future?
NN: HUII is a very young organization. It was started 4 years ago when the founders realized we had so many great cultural organizations on campus, but none that catered to discussing concrete political, economic, or social problems in India. HUII tried to fill this gap by hosting conferences in India and the US. This conference is the first of this scale, and is aimed at making HUII a larger organization and defining its focus.
Most of us [in HUII] are students from India who are studying at Harvard. HUII is one way for us to keep in touch with what is happening in India. I think it’s very easy for international students to lose touch with the problems in their country. I, for the longest time, was more aware of what was happening with US politics rather than knowing full well what was happening with the elections in India.
HUII is one catalyst to bring forward these discussions and what is happening back in the homeland, which is an incredible resource. Moving forward, we will continue conducting such conferences and focusing on concrete policy-making initiatives and the concrete desire to create change and give back.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.
SAI offers research and internship grants to Harvard graduate students and Harvard college undergraduate students (freshmen, sophomores, and juniors) to be used during the summer and winter sessions.
In 2014, SAI awarded 46 grants to students to do a variety internships and research projects in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Grant recipients represent the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, College, Graduate School of Design, Divinity School, Kennedy School, Medical School, and School of Public Health.
In the SAI 2014 Grant Report, students reflect on their experience and what they learned.
Examples of testimonials:
“I can confidently say that this internship has brought me a long away, from my theoretical conception of environmental policy from Harvard courses, with a deeper understanding of the profession, practice, and substance of environmental law and policy.”
-Sabrina Ghouse, Social Studies & Environment, Harvard College 2015; Internship with United Nations Development Programme
“My visit has allowed me to think more broadly about the relationship between private enterprise and urban planning and design in the context of developing countries.”
-Justin D. Stern, PhD Candidate, Architecture & Urban Planning, Graduate School of Design; Research: Between Industrialization and Urban Planning: Tata Steel and the Two Faces of Jamshedpur
“What was originally meant to be a preliminary research trip, morphed into a rather substantial research, far exceeding my expectations.”
-Lydia Walker, PhD Candidate, Department of History, GSAS; National Separatist Movements in the Early 1960s in South Asia and Southern Africa
“When my friends and coworkers asked me why I was so delighted to be in the city despite the monstrous heat, I’d say in absolute earnest that I have a big crush on Delhi: on its long afternoons working out some idea for a paper with friends over chai; on its lecture- and music- and addafilled evenings. I hope to return to Delhi after graduation for continued study and research”
-Reina Gattuso, Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard College 2015; Lokniti Program, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
“Working with my other lab members, I was able to learn about science and the culture of India simultaneously. In between performing behavioral tests and analyzing our data, we would chitchat about everything from the must-see attractions in India to the country’s education system.”
-Jacqueline Ma, Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology, Harvard College 2016; Harvard Bangalore Science Initiative, Bangalore
“Spending a summer exploring the educational system in India was both sobering and enlightening. Nevertheless, every experience reinforced the importance of education.”
-Sara Melissa Theiss, Psychology, Harvard College 2015, Prasad Fellow; VidyaGyan Leadership Academy, Uttar Pradesh
“Although the summer is indeed a very hot time in Delhi and not the most comfortable period of the year to reside there, this summer confirmed my belief that the city is a growing hub of intellectual activity and energy… An entire scholarly community from around the world descends upon Delhi during this time. I had the opportunity engage with and be part of this group, and I am extremely grateful.”
-Madhav Khosla, PhD Candidate, Department of Government; Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
“While both of us have worked in India before, this was also the first time we had run our own survey. We became very aware of all of the things, small and large, that can go wrong when doing fieldwork. The grant from SAI gave us the opportunity to run a small pilot survey that gave us the experience we needed so that our future surveys are run more smoothly.”
-Heather Sarsons, PhD Candidate, Department of Economics, GSAS; Dowry Payments and Female Welfare in India
Summer Grant Applications Deadlines:
All Graduate Grant Applications: February 13, 2015
All Undergraduate Grant Applications: February 9, 2015
Building a Better India: Doing Good While Doing Well
On September 22nd, 2014, The Harvard Club of Mumbai hosted a lively panel discussion and Q&A session at Good Earth, Mumbai between prominent social entrepreneurs and eminent alumni on the future of social enterprise in India.
This panel, held in partnership with the Princeton Club and Global Shapers, Mumbai (World Economic Forum), was honored by the presence of the following prominent leaders of social change in Mumbai:
- Aditi Shrivastava, Head, Intellecap Impact Investment Network (I3N)
- Prerana Langa, CEO YES Bank Foundation CSR
- Krishna Pujari, Co-Founder, Reality Tours and Travels
- Mayank Sekhsaria, Director DD Cotton/Co-founder Greenlight Planet
These changemakers walked us through their journey in discovering how to make social change while also creating a profitable venture. They explored the challenges/rewards of building systems of social change that simultaneously serve as viable business enterprises.
They talked about how to make such ventures sustainable, how to encourage innovation in social enterprise, how to encourage socially responsible practices in the corporate sector, and similar such issues. They summed up the discussion by offering ways in which sustainable social enterprise can serve as the engine of economic development in a rapidly changing India.
Over 80 members of alumni clubs were in attendance. They enjoyed an elaborate high tea offered by Good Earth, Mumbai concurrent with alumni networking and followed by a lively discussion and Q&A.
Are you a Harvard alum in South Asia who would like to share an update on your activities with the SAI community? Email Meghan Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
SAI offers three opportunities for scholars and practitioners to continue their research at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Please note: Do not write directly to Harvard faculty regarding SAI’s Fellowship opportunities. If you have questions, please consult our Frequently Asked Questions guide or email Program Manager, Nora Maginn, email@example.com
Fellows are expected to reside in the Cambridge vicinity during the time of their award and to actively participate in the events and intellectual life of the Institute. Fellows are also expected to contribute to the greater Harvard community by teaching, mentoring, or advising students. In addition to the stipend, fellows are provided with health insurance, as well as transportation costs for those traveling from South Asia to Cambridge.
SAI offers three opportunities for scholars and practitioners to continue their research at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Fellows are expected to reside in the Cambridge vicinity during the time of their award and to actively participate in the events and intellectual life of the Institute. Fellows are also expected to contribute to the greater Harvard community by teaching, mentoring, or advising students. In addition to the stipend, fellows are provided with health insurance, as well as transportation costs for those traveling from South Asia to Cambridge.
Total stipend for one term: $20,000
The Babar Ali Fellowship supports recent PhDs, those in the final stages of their PhDs, and advanced professional degree holders in areas related to Pakistan.
Priority will be given to candidates who demonstrate prior educational history that has taken place largely in Pakistan, and plan to return to Pakistan upon completion of the fellowship.
Total stipend for one term: $20,000
The South Asian Studies Fellowship supports recent PhDs in the humanities and social sciences related to South Asia. Research topics can cover any period of South Asian history or contemporary South Asia. Candidates must be able to provide evidence of successful completion of their PhD by June of the year of appointment and may not be more than five years beyond the receipt of PhD.
Total stipend for one year: $40,000
Deadline: January 15, 2015 for Academic Year 2015-2016
Reflections from SAI Fellows:
“The Aman Fellowship provided me an opportunity to take advantage of Harvard’s resources for my research and to connect with leading academics and researchers in the world. I discovered new avenues for my research and I will be following these leads in my academic career. I also used this opportunity to develop and submit different proposals for my future research projects in Pakistan and abroad.”
-Muhammad Zahir, SAI Aman Fellow, Spring 2014
“The fellowship gave me the the chance to get involved with different types of discourse on South Asia.”
-Shankar Ramaswami, SAI South Asian Studies Fellow, 2013-2014
“A number of my friends who were involved in environmentalist NGOs in India were talking about the new Forest Rights Act, and I decided to focus on it for my dissertation. And it’s that work on this law, and the movements that helped pass it, and the groups now involved in organizing people to claim land rights through it, that I wrote my dissertation on, and it’s that work that I am continuing right now at the South Asia Institute. I’m writing articles based on the research I did for my PhD, and I’m beginning my book manuscript”
- Anand Vaidya, current SAI South Asian Studies Fellow, 2014-2015
SAI has awarded 18 grants to support undergraduate and graduate student projects over the Winter Session in January, 2015. These include 6 undergraduates and 12 graduate students who will be traveling to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka for research and internships.
The projects cover topics from many disciplines, for example: Using microfinance to alleviate poverty, sustainable housing, the “Islamization” of Divorce Law in Pakistan, vernacular literature of Indian Christians, changing education in the third world countries using cheap computing devices, and internships at health ministries in Sri Lanka.
Arthur Bauer, MPA-ID, Harvard Kennedy School
Assessing microfinance’s effectiveness in alleviating poverty, India
Jeffrey Bryant, MPP/MBA, Harvard Kennedy School/Harvard Business School
January Term Research Position with HKS Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) India Team, India
Ishani Desai, MPA-ID, Harvard Kennedy School
Understanding the factors that influence adoption: A study on menstrual practices and sanitary pad adoption in Gujarat, India
Hardeep Dhillon, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Research project seeks to retrieve the history of the women’s movement in the 1970’s through the collection of oral histories. Following the guidelines established by the Oral History Association, Dhillon intends to interview prominent members of the 1970’s women’s movement, India
Joshua Ehrlich, History, PhD, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge, 1772-1835, India
Michael Haggerty, M.Arch 1, Graduate School of Design
Vernacular Construction for Urban Housing: New Structures for Architectural Practice to Deliver Sustainable Housing in Bangladesh
Madiha Irfan, MTS. Harvard Divinity School
Debates over the “Islamization” of Divorce Law in Pakistan
Rakesh Peter Dass, Th.D., Harvard Divinity School
Why Hindi? Translation Choices and Vernacular Literature Among Indian Christians, India
Jonathan Phillips, PhD,Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Who Implements Programmatic Education Policies? Researching Surprising Patterns in Indian States, India
Sarika Ringwala, PhD in Public Policy
Empowering Citizens Through Service Delivery Reforms, India
Divya Sooryakumar, Ed. M, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Creating an SMS-based solution to an information gap for mothersto enhance their early childhood education and development practices for infants through the first 3 years of their lives, India
Hector Tarrido Picart, MAUD & MLA, Graduate School of Design
Remote Sensing Mumbai, India
Maria Qazi, MPA-ID, Harvard Kennedy School
Social protection and state legitimacy – the Case of Benazir Income Support Program
Chesley Ekelem, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Health Policy, Harvard College ‘16
Internship with St. Jude ChildCare Centres, Mumbai, India
Angela Leocata, Harvard College ’18
Little Stars Internship to Develop English and Writing Program, Varanasi, India
Fei (Michelle) Lin, Human Developmental and Regenerative Bio, Harvard College ‘17
Internship at Heal Asia’s inaugural project – Sri Lanka Medical Relief Program, Sri Lanka Ministry of Health, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Jacqueline Ma, Human Developmental and Regenerative Bio and East Asian Studies, Harvard College ’16
Internship at HealAsia, Sri Lanka Ministry of Health, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Tarik Adnan Moon, Mathematics and Computer Science, Harvard College ‘15
Research on changing education in the third world countries using cheap computing devices, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Ishani Premaratne, Anthropology and Health Policy, Harvard College ’15
Work on GrowLanka and completion of partnership with Sri Lankan Youth Ministry, Vavuniya, Sri Lanka
Mass casualty incidents, from terrorist attacks, floodings, earthquakes to bus accidents, are chaotic. With proper knowledge about the principles of triage, even those with no medical training can help.
Mass casualty triage was the topic of SAI’s second webinar of the semester, on Nov. 19, on disaster management with Dr. Usha Periyanayagam (@uperiy), MD, MPH, International Emergency Medicine Fellow, Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital; Harvard Medical School.
Eight universities from three countries in South Asia participated in the interactive session, using videoconference software provided by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), with a participation of around 100 students in South Asia, with many more watching online.
Dr. Periyanayagam has worked with SAI and the Aman Foundation to improve disaster response in Karachi, and has extensive experience in emergency settings around the world.
During the webinar, Dr. Periyanayagam explained that “triage” is not treatment – it is a method of sorting injured people and deciding who gets treatment first. “The goal of triage is doing the greatest good for the greatest number – it’s not doing everything you can for every patient,” Dr. Periyanayagam explained. She cited the 2013 Boston marathon bombing as an example of triage working correctly – of the 250 who were injured, no one who was transported to hospital died.
In many places in the developing world, including South Asia, inefficient triage can lead to patients dying who could have otherwise been saved. For example, if someone is slightly injured but is still able to yell and talk, they are sometimes the first taken to the hospital because they are persistent. With proper triage, they should be the last treated – those who are most injured are the ones who can not vocalize that they need help.
For people with no medical training, Dr. Periyanayagam explained that there are four main questions that should be used to evaluate each injured person:
- Can they walk? Anyone who is able to walk on their own should be separated from the more seriously injured.
- Can they breathe? Ask people if they need help, and anyone who can yell or scream is able to breathe sufficiently.
- Do they have a pulse? Another useful tip is to test their capillary refill – if you press on their skin and the color does not quickly go back to normal, they are seriously injured.
- Can they follow commands? Whether or not they are following instructions is an indicator of their mental state.
After a 15-30 second evaluation for each injured person using the questions above, Dr. Periyanayagam explained the process of color coding the injured. It is important to keep groups separate if possible to prevent confusion. The injured should be split in to four color categories, which will indicate how quickly they should get to a hospital:
- Black: Dead or unsalvageable, and will be brought to the morgue.
- Red: In need of immediate treatment, and will go to a hospital first. Red patients have abnormal breathing, pulse, and mental status.
- Yellow: Will receive delayed treatment. They have normal breathing, normal cap refill, and normal mental status.
- Green: Anyone who is wounded but walking – they should go to a clinic or somewhere other than hospital.
Dr. Periyanayagam also shared some tips for treating patients in the field even if you do not have a medical background. Controlling hemorrhage should be the first task, since loss of blood frequently leads to death for trauma patients.
First, pressure should be applied to the site that is bleeding, even if it causes pain. Dr. Periyanayagam said that many people make the mistake of not pressing hard enough because it pains the patient. Next, the bleeding body part can be lifted above the heart, which can help stop the bleeding.
Dr. Periyanayagam explained that tourniquets should be used only if all other attempts to control bleeding has failed. A tourniquet is a device used to stop bleeding by tying something tight above the injured body part, but can be dangerous and can cause damage. A tourniquet can be made with what is available, for example a scarf or belt, and should not be used for more than 90 minutes, or the result can be permanent damage.
Spinal immobilization is also important to make sure that a person is not paralyzed. Dr. Periyanayagam explained that it is important that the injured cannot turn their back or neck, so use anything you have available to immobilize them – for example, two shoes taped around the head. A splint can also be made using available materials, to set a broken leg or arm.
The webinar was a valuable instructional tool in the principles of triage, that should be widely known to everyone, even those not in the medical community. “Doing something is still better than doing nothing,” Dr. Periyanayagam said, in situations with mass casualties.
Students and faculty at participating universities had the opportunity to ask Dr. Periyanayagam questions directly during the webinar, as well as on social media. (See the conversation on Twitter here). Participating universities included Christ University in Bangalore, India, De La Salle University, Manila, Phillippines, and several universities from all over Pakistan.
The next webinar is TBD. Please check our website for updates. We will be adding more resources to our website in the future.
Bartholomew was the first artist to come to Harvard as part of SAI’s new Arts Initiative, which brings experienced and emerging artists to Cambridge whose work focus is on social issues related to South Asia, with support from the Donald T. Regan Lecture Fund. His works have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Business Week, and National Geographic.
Bartholomow spoke at two SAI events during his week at Harvard. In a seminar on Nov. 4, ‘Anatomy of a Man-Made Disaster: Thirty Years Later, Remembering the Bhopal Gas Tragedy’, he spoke about his first-hand experience documenting the world’s worst industrial disaster. In A Personalized History of Indian Photography, 1880 to 2010, Bartholomow took the audience on a photographic journey in which he shared a collection of Indian photographers who have influenced him.
Bartholomew’s exhibit Coded Elegance will be on display at Harvard until Jan. 31, 2015 (CGIS South Concourse, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA; Open to the public Mondays-Thursdays 7am – 9pm; Fridays 7am – 7pm.) Coded Elegance is a series of ethno-anthropological photographs of tribes and people of the hills and valleys of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur, taken from 1989 to 2000.
During his visit to Harvard, SAI sat down with Bartholomew to discuss his photo exhibit, the aftermath of the Bhopal tragedy, how photojournalism is changing, and how his South Asian heritage has influenced his work:
SAI: You said in your seminar on Bhopal that you viewed the victims’ lack of compensation as a “collective failure of the media.” What would success have looked like to you?
PB: Well, success for Bhopal would have been ten times, or a hundred times the volume of money, and the money actually reaching the victims and cutting out all the fraud, red tape, and all the corruption. That’s one part of it. The other, if there was a lot more money and a vision, then the cleanup, which is equally important, could have been completed at a very early stage.
Right now they don’t know what to do with all the chemicals sitting in there. It could have environmental consequences and health issues. There is talk about creating a dump to get rid of the chemicals – but where is that dump going to be? How is it going to be contained? So it’s one of those industrial issues, a modern contemporary issue, that is the same thing as what’s happened in Japan [the earthquake in Fukushima].
SAI: How do you think people are viewing the tragedy now, and how has this changed over time?
PB: People are just now tired. That’s what happens to anything – there’s a fatigue that sets in. It’s the same way that journalism has changed and the media has changed, because you hardly have any hard news anymore – it’s all about lifestyle and fashion, about people’s aspirations, because that’s easier to do, rather than look at the bad and the ugly.
SAI: How has photojournalism changed?
PB: There is no money now for long-term projects which show depth and have density. Right now, everything is about illustration. Now, media is being run by lawyers and bankers. It’s not being run by the old-style editorial people. It’s not just India – I’m talking worldwide, in America and the West. Everything is in flux. Look at Time magazine or Newsweek. And part of it is that the Internet has thrown the media houses into flux, because they didn’t know how to deal with the change and create a revenue model.
SAI: If a tragedy like Bhopal happened this year, would the media have reacted differently?
PB: Well, you would have had a lot more cell phone photos and much more immediate coverage. Citizen journalism would be thriving and active.
SAI: For people who are citizen journalists, and post photos on Instagram, there is a debate about whether that is good or bad for photography – what do you think?
PB: I don’t have a problem with any of that personally, because I use this analogy: Everybody can write, but who are the great writers, who can move people with their writing beyond cultural boundaries? It’s the same thing – everybody can photograph and make compelling pictures at a certain moment in time. It’s all a question of here and now. But what they do with their thought process, and how they continue to create year after year, is what matters.
The only thing that bothers me with the blogging and Instagram, is the process of authentication. In a media house, you always have the scenario where the journalist on the field reported, then there were researchers who fact-checked, and there was an editorial layer of what makes a story. That has its upsides and downsides.
SAI: SAI’s Arts Initiative brings artists to Harvard whose work focuses on social change. Can you talk about how you see art or photography playing a role in making social change?
Pablo Bartholomew: I don’t know if social change is possible like a pill, where you take a pill and your headache goes away. I think it’s much more of a very slow process. If people are looking for immediate results, I don’t think that there is going to be that sort of instant gratification. I think any kind of change is a gradual process, and then once you have marked the beginning, then you can see how much progress there is. And of course, people have to be prepared for failure. And that’s one of the humbling aspects, to see how that failure can be gratifying.
SAI: Can you talk about your exhibit [Coded Elegance] that is on display? It’s so vibrant and colorful. What drew you to the Nagas people, and lead you to document them?
PB: Many of my personal bodies of work have a resonance with family. There are 30 Naga tribes between Arunachal, Nagaland, and Manipur, which border Burma to the East and Arunachal on the North borders China. It was originally the Nagas in Nagaland that I went to photograph and discover for myself, because of childhood stories. When my father was escaping the Japanese during the Second World War, and walking to India, he encountered the Naga tribes. Currently, I am trying to find permission to walk the route, the General Stilwell Route, into Burma, a 30-day march that my father walked.
This project has a resonance and family history for me. When I went there [Nagaland], I found this amazingly beautiful people. For other exhibits I have done on the Nagas people, I called them ‘Marked with Beauty.’
This exhibit is called ‘Coded Elegance,’ which points a finger at the fashion industry in India, because this [the Nagas] is true fashion. Every object that they wear, or every piece of fabric or jewelry or marking, has a meaning. You can only get certain markings or wear certain jewelry if you have achieved a certain kind of merit. Everything is very visual. That is why there is a ‘Code.’
SAI: While you were working on the exhibit, did you ever feel like an outsider trying to understand this code?
PB: No – I feel much closer to that end of the world anyway, since my mother is half from Bengal, in the East, and my father is from Burma. I have always been fascinated by tribes, and tribal people. I started to make many friends with the Nagas kids who came to study in Delhi, so there was already a bond. Through them, I learned about their culture.
SAI: How were you received as someone looking to document their culture? Were they open to sharing?
PB: Not necessarily. That’s part of the hardship – it [the photo collection] took me about 10 years, from 1989 to 2000. There is a fair amount of time that I invested in the region. Many of these practices now are ceremonial or hidden.
SAI: Can you talk about the colors – they are so vibrant in this exhibit. On the other hand, many of your Bhopal photos are black and white. How do you see the difference between black and white and color photography? Is that always a conscious choice?
PB: Black and white is beautiful – but it lost its commercial applicability within the media after the mid-80s. Then everything went color. For many years, even Time magazine in the 80s published black and white, until they went color. It’s kind of sad that you couldn’t shoot black and white. On the other hand, to be able to masterfully handle color is not the easiest thing. Now, with the digital era, it has become much easier.
SAI: What is your process like as a photographer – are you always in the photographer mindset?
PB: I think it’s a natural process of having a recording device with you. Not always is what you do is great – you fail a lot, and it’s the jewels that shine through.
SAI: One of SAI’s Seminar Series tracks is ‘South Asia Without Borders.’ In your work, how do you see borders in South Asia, and also as someone whose heritage represents many countries in South Asia?
PB: That is something I’m working on – I’m starting in Burma, and I plan to work over the next 5 years all over the region. I will work in Bangladesh, Pakistan, in India, all to connect the family thread.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.
By Jaganath Sankaran
Jaganath Sankaran is a postdoctoral research associate at the National Security Education Center at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Sankaran wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy on the topic of space security. Part of this opinion piece has been adapted from the author’s article titled: “Space Cooperation: A Vital New Front for India-U.S. Relations” published in Space News. The opinions expressed in the article are solely the author’s do not represent the positions of any organization.
Sankaran spoke at a SAI seminar last February: China-India Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality?
India’s Mars probe, Mangalyaan, was successfully placed on an orbit around the red planet on the 24th of September, 2014. The event has sparked an outpouring of nationalistic pride in India in response to the scientific achievement. The positive reaction is richly deserved by India’s Space Research Organization. Placing a research satellite around Mars is, indeed, a difficult task.
A number of missions by other advanced scientific nations have failed in the past. In 1998, for example, Japan failed to place its Nozomi spacecraft on a Mars Orbit due to a malfunctioning valve that led to propellant leakage. More recently, in 2011, Russian Phobos-Grunt and Chinese Mars orbiter Yinghuo-1 failed due to problems with the launch vehicle. Since 1998, the U.S. has attempted ten missions to Mars of which three failed. Similarly, since 1998, the European Space Agency has managed to place only one of its Mars orbiters out of two attempts.
All of this data points to the significance of the India’s achievement. A number of things could have gone wrong in a Martian mission. India’s Space Research Organization—to its credit—managed to anticipate and avoid such pitfalls in its first Mars mission.
What is next on the agenda for India? India has a number of space exploration missions lined up for the future. One is a follow on to its first Moon mission, Chandrayaan-II. There is apparently also plans to launch a spacecraft—Aditya-I—to study solar coronal mass ejections.
Important as these scientific space explorations missions may be, however, India’s major initiatives in space continue to be focused on earth missions that have more immediate applications. Specifically, some of these missions will be undertaken in cooperation with the United States. In 2012, India and the U.S. signed implementing agreements for active collaborative on the U.S.-led Global Precipitation Measurement project. India’s Megha-Tropiques, a satellite mission to study the water cycle in the tropical region in the context of climate change, forms part of the Global Precipitation Measurement mission being led by the U.S. and Japan.
More recently, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Indian Space Research Organization have agreed to collaborate and plan to launch an L- and S-band synthetic aperture radar satellite for weather-related research. By gathering data in two wavelengths, researchers hope to be able to more accurately observe and classify varieties in vegetation, measure changes in the amount of carbon stored in vegetation, and observe changes in soil moisture.
This joint mission is part of a NASA plan to launch a series of water and drought monitoring satellites over the next several years designed to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems, and to better visualize the changes occurring on Earth. This joint mission is expected to fulfill some of the key scientific objectives of NASA’s proposed Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice (DESDynI) mission.
The U.S. National Research Council in 2007 identified DESDynI as a top Earth Science priority, but budget pressures have confined the mission to the drawing board. Working together, India and the U.S. will be able to obtain data on some of the DESDynI objectives.
Such joint ventures, given national budgetary constraints under which spacefaring nations like the United States and India operate, is an effective means to further the understanding of Earth’s ecosystem. Such ventures also strengthen relationships between the two countries.
The Harvard South Asia Institute is thrilled to hear the news that Kailash Satyarthi of India and Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 for their incredible efforts in improving the lives of children worldwide.
Kailash Satyarthi has followed in Gandhi’s footsteps in promoting peaceful and nonviolent means to ending the grave exploitation of children and promoting children’s rights. Malala Yousafzai became an international spokesperson for the right of girls to education after being shot by the Taliban.
“We should, in our own small way as the South Asia Institute, capitalize on the attention towards these important social issues that these Peace Prize awards will generate,” said Tarun Khanna, Director of SAI and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School. ”SAI does a lot of work on gender-related issues, and increasingly on education of children, and it behooves us to redouble those efforts.”
SAI spoke with Jacqueline Bhabha, FXB Director of Research, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School, and an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, whose own research focuses on human rights, trafficking, and gender in South Asia, on the significance of the awards.
SAI: What do you think stands out about the work that these two figures have done, that got the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee?
Jacqueline Bhabha: I think what’s really interesting is that on the one hand you have somebody [Satyarthi] who is a mature, seasoned human rights activist, who is well known to people working on child labor, and child exploitation for decades, and has really been in the trenches and has taken enormous personal risk and sacrifices to carry on the work he has done with a range of different strategies: working with trade unions, mentoring children, and using the courts. He has been a tremendously creative and inventive human rights advocate.
And on the other hand you have this young teenager [Yousafzai] who shows incredible personal courage in one extraordinary incident, and has built on that to make quite a focused campaign on gender and education. So there is an interesting contrast in strategy, skill sets, and experience. But in both cases, clearly, what the Nobel committee was struck by was the vision and courage of two very different individuals.
SAI: What do you see as the significance of giving the award to both an Indian and a Pakistani at the same time?
JB: It’s interesting, in that it draws attention to South Asia, which is a critical hotspot for children’s rights, which is important, even though issues of infant mortality and morbidity are very much widely spread – plus, incidents of child rights abuses happen everywhere, South Asia is a particularly dark spot when we look at child labor, child marriage, and sexual slavery. So I think drawing attention to the continent rather than one country is interesting.
However, there is nothing quintessential about South Asia which says this region has to be mired in child rights abuses. Bangladesh has made enormous progress as a poorer country with very complicated political history and lots of natural disasters, yet has made progress on both child labor and girl’s education, and has made dramatic strives compared to India and Pakistan. So I think that’s a point worth making, that even though South Asia is a very dark spot globally, there are little tiny pockets within South Asia of very good practices.
SAI: Will this award help in bringing attention to these issues in South Asia, and worldwide?
JB: Absolutely. I do think it will do that for both the Indian and Pakistani government, but more generally, it will really draw attention to the pervasive reality of crimes against children.
I think one other point that’s worth making is that in a way, Kailesh and Malala represent two points of extreme on the spectrum. One of them draws attention to one of the worst abuses, and a lot of [Kailash’s work] in rescuing children from slavery really brought attention to the endemic nature of these kinds of violations. On the other hand, Malala represents the critical preventative strategy for trafficking, which is education – the best way of addressing the poverty, destitution and entrapment of children – through enhancing their education to help them escape from illiteracy and exploitation. So the two different awards really cover the spectrum.
SAI: How do you see the work that they are doing possibly translated outside of South Asia, to other countries?
JB: I think these examples are much broader than their relevant countries. Both these people have a global significance, and I think the strategies in countering child labor, for example, thinking about rescuing, thinking about organizing, thinking about globalization of workers, are strategies that have been adopted by countries in Latin America. I think the whole connection between gender and education is something that also is worth thinking about much more broadly.
I think this [award] is something that advocates can use and I think that politicians will have to pay attention to.
SAI: Malala was already such an international figure in the media, but Kailash wasn’t as widely known. Do you think this award the potential to catapult his platform to the forefront?
JB: Of course. It happened with Shirin Ebadi years ago, the Iranian peace laureate, when no one outside of Iran had really heard of her work. Then, it became a flashpoint of people talking about human right violations in Iran, and persecution in Iran. Although some of us have followed Kailash’s work for decades, he wasn’t as much of a household name as Malala. This will certainly be something that will raise his profile and the many different strategies he has used to address child labor.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.
Nutrition is crucial to global health. Emerging demographic, economic and dietary factors suggest that a large burden of preventable illness is poised to develop in India requiring training for a new cadre of Indian nutrition scientists. There is a great need for nutrition researchers in the country, but few training programs exist.
In response to this critical gap in training, the Bangalore Boston Nutrition Collaborative (BBNC) was initiated in 2009 to connect faculty at St. John’s Research Institute in Bangalore (SJRI) with colleagues at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Tufts University in Boston.
The Collaborative was designed to build capacity and to provide research training for young professionals in the fields of nutrition and global health from India, and subsequently other countries in the region.
Lead by Dr. Christopher Duggan, Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, HSPH, Director, Center for Nutrition at Boston Children’s Hospital, the BBNC was awarded the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative award in 2013, an award that aims to strengthen collaboration and builds partnerships between American and Indian institutions of higher education in priority fields.
SAI supports the project, as its goals align with SAI’s own vision of interdisciplinary collaboration to seek innovative solutions to critical issues in South Asia.
Since 2010, the BBNC has provided over 100 students from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uganda with a unique global health education experience and an opportunity to explore new approaches and strategies to solve nutrition-based public health problems in an intensive two-week course in India.
“All of these graduates have returned to their home institution to work on advanced nutritional studies and programs, and many have junior colleagues that they are training,” said Duggan on the effect of the program. “We have an impact on research capacity building throughout the region.”
The most recent course took place from January 20 – 31, 2014, with 41 students in Bangalore. Participants included medical students, physicians and allied health professionals, as well as junior faculty in medicine, nursing, and public health at academic institutions throughout India. The course sessions were led by faculty from varying disciplines from SJRI and HSPH. Duggan said that the close interactions with faculty members were a highlight of the course.
The course allows students to gain substantive knowledge in topic areas related to public health nutrition research, including: clinical nutrition, physiology, biochemistry, and molecular nutrition. Students enhance their methodological skills in areas of nutritional, infectious disease, and chronic disease epidemiology, with emphasis on clinical, research, and laboratory areas.
The BBNC encourages students to continue their training after the course, and the BBNC website posts links to recordings of seminars held at HPSH.
Other Harvard faculty that have been involved in the course include Richard Cash, senior lecturer on global health, Ronald Bosch, senior research scientist in biostatistics, David Hunter, Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention, Anuraj Shankar, senior research scientist in nutrition, and SV Subramanian, professor of population health and geography.
With support from the United States India Education Foundation, the Collaborative has secured 3 more years of funding, and hopes to continue its work in other countries, including Nepal and Uganda.
Portions of this article were been adapted from: Kuriyan et al. BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:5 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6920/14/5
Christopher Duggan, HSPH, contributed to this article.
This article originally appeared on the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology website.
By Sophie Blum
Annie Arrighi-Allisan (Harvard College, Class of 2015) applied to the Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative (HBSI) because, “as a neurobiology student, I wanted to gain experience in the lab, and as a curious young adult, I wanted to see the world.”
MCB’s Venkatesh Murthy, member of SAI’s Steering Committee, founded the Initiative in 2007 with SEAS Professor L. Mahadevan and Professor Vijay Raghavan, then-director of Bangalore’s National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS). “I started this initiative with two simple goals,” says Murthy: first, “to expose students at Harvard to science in a very different setting (culturally, economically, and geographically) to illustrate how universal it is, and second, to establish ties with leading institutions in India for potential collaboration among faculty and researchers.” Each summer since, the HBSI has sent a batch of 3-10 undergraduates to India for a 10-12 week research internship at one of Bangalore’s world-class scientific institutions.
Thanks to financial support from The Harvard University South Asia Institute, the David Rockefeller Foundation, and room and board generously provided by the NCBS, the internship program runs at cost with no additional fees to students other than off-campus expenses.
In 2011 Murthy recruited Ryan Draft, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies, Neurobiology, to help administer the program. Draft’s own international experiences influenced him profoundly throughout his career, and he enjoys sharing that eye-opening opportunity with his undergraduate advisees. For the first two weeks, Draft accompanies students in Bangalore, helping them find their bearings at the research center, master the logistical challenges of living abroad in India, and settle into their labs.
Students reside in dormitories on the NCBS campus surrounded by mango and eucalyptus groves. As ordinary members of their lab, interns attend lab meetings, journal clubs, and weekly lectures. While such lectures are not mandatory, attendance is high among the close-knit NCBS community and, as Ryan Draft observes, HBSI interns are soon and swiftly swept up in the lab culture. NCBS’s relatively small lab-size (10-15 people) and central café contribute to students’ rapid integration as they hob-nob with grad students, postdocs, and faculty over tea and snacks.
Weekend excursions, often a highlight among students’ reminiscences, are neither prescribed nor supervised, and largely depend on students’ interests and appetite for adventure. Reliably, lab-mates are happy to recommend tourist destinations, hidden gems, rugged treks, and travel routes. Arrighi-Allisan, who completed her internship two summers ago, recalls, “While we were promised to our host labs during the week, we used our weekends to travel around Southern India and explore our less-cushioned surroundings. We saw the grand palace at Mysore, lounged by the picturesque beaches and toured the fragrant spice plantation in Goa, explored the backwaters of Kerala by houseboat, and toured the hidden ruins of Hampi.”
HBSI is open to students from all areas pertinent to the biological sciences, including, but not limited to, the life sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science. This summer’s interns tackled everything from predicting protein structures using computational molecular biology, to the neurobiology of behavior, looking at fear learning in the amygdala. Other projects employed atmospheric chemistry—characterizing aerosols and radiative forcing—or mechanical engineering, motor control, and robotics.
While recommended for rising juniors and seniors, the program admits students of all ages, from those just starting out in the sciences to those who know exactly what they want to work on. 2013 intern Michael Drumm recommends the program to “those who look forward to being put slightly outside of their comfort zone with the hope of greatly expanding that zone by the end of the summer.” Drumm himself testifies to having transformed over the course of the summer: Overwhelmed by the environmental displacement, “The first few weeks I was completely lost [but] by the end of the summer, I was completely comfortable and extremely enjoyed navigating the bustling streets of Bangalore to find some late-night chaats, taking one-way tickets to weekend getaways, finding my way back somehow, and conversing in broken Hindi to people on the street.”
At Harvard, the vast majority of study-abroad programs are humanities-based. While the mind-broadening perspective stimulated by experience abroad “is an essential part of undergraduate education in the 21st century for all students,” according to Draft, “these programs often lack any element of professional development for science students.” “In as much as the enterprise of scientific research is an international one,” he continues, “the sooner we educate students to think globally in training and collaborating as a scientists, the better.” As Drumm puts it, even when “the work is similar to that which you can find in the States, the people you work with come from different backgrounds and can impart different insights and knowledge to the same problems.”
While the HBSI internship is going strong, the initiative’s fundamental mission of international collaboration and intellectual exchange allows for ample expansion. Ideally, Murthy anticipates, “I would like to see bidirectional exchange of scholars at all levels—for example, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from Harvard establishing collaborative projects and spending time in Bangalore, and complementarily, scholars from Bangalore coming to Harvard.” The future is promising; Murthy notes that “the Harvard South Asia Institute has taken a keen interest in catalyzing these ideas, and I am working closely with them to make these ideas a reality!”
Join the South Asia Institute for three interactive webinar events with Harvard University Fellows on Disaster Management and Emergency Response.
South Asia is particularly vulnerable to disasters, from terrorist attacks, to floodings, to earthquakes that can affect large populations. In order to address these humanitarian crises, the fundamentals of mass casualty management are critical.These interactive webinars will highlight the work being done to systematically improve the response to emergencies in urban settings.
How to participate:
PREPARE: Visit SAI’s website to find articles and readings to prepare for the webinars.
WATCH: One the day of the webinar, watch live on SAI’s website
INTERACT: Tweet your questions and join the conversation on Facebook
Twitter: @HarvardSAI, #SAIWebinar
Facebook: Harvard SAI
Wednesday, October 1
Shawn D’Andrea, MD, Instructor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
This seminar will teach incident command, which is a simple organizational structure that allows a coordinated thoughtful response when the needs of the crisis overwhelm the resources.
8:30 AM in Cambridge, 5:30 PM in Pakistan, 6 PM in India, 6:30 PM in Sri Lanka & Bangladesh
MASS CASUALTY TRIAGE
Wednesday, November 19
Usha Periyanayagam, MD, International Emergency Medicine Fellow, Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital; Harvard Medical School
When there are many injured people in an incident, non-medical personal might be needed to begin care of patients. This seminar will teach triage, a simple way to determine the priority of patient treatment, and the basics of treatment of patients.
8:30 AM in Cambridge, 6:30 PM in Pakistan, 7 PM in India, 7:30 PM in Sri Lanka, & Bangladesh (* Please note the time variation due to US Daylight Saving Time)
PLANNING AND PREPAREDNESS
Mass casualty responses work best when there is a well-rehearsed plan. This seminar will cover planning for a disaster, preparatory drills, and debriefing, drawing from the experience of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
If your school or organization has video conferencing capabilities and you would like to host a site for this webinar, email us! Host sites will have the opportunity to ask the professors questions in real time. We welcome participation of sites throughout South Asia.
Made possible with generous support from the Pakistan Higher Education Commission.
Harvard University, established in 1636, celebrated its 378th anniversary on September 8th, 2014. Coincidentally, Chennai (formerly called Madras) in Tamil Nadu, India, celebrated its 350th anniversary on the same day with week-long festivities. In partnership the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI), the Harvard Club of Chennai celebrated the historic event in a unique gathering that included a cartoonist, pianist, and a quiz about famous Harvard quotes.
Although light-hearted, the event skillfully brought out threads of commonality between the iconic institution of Harvard, the oldest institute of higher education in the United States, and the historic city of Chennai, the oldest modern city of India. Through art and music, the event displayed how both have the potential to catalyze social change.
The event was held at The Forum, a leading art gallery in Chennai where cartoonist Biswajit Balasubramanian and pianist Anil Srinivasan joined forces to produce a music-and-cartoon event depicting the humorous side of the often serious business of life in Chennai. Also on exhibition were a collection of over 100 Chennai-themed cartoons drawn by Biswajit over the years. Anil Srinivasan is a classical pianist, best known for his collaborative work with Carnatic vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan.
- “It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds. A Harvard education and a Yale degree.” - John F. Kennedy
- “Harvard makes mistakes too, you know. Kissinger taught there.” - Woody Allen
- “A Harvard Medical School study has determined that rectal thermometers are still the best way to tell a baby’s temperature. Plus, it really teaches the baby who’s boss.” - Tina Fey
- “Harvard takes perfectly good plums as students, and turns them into prunes.” - Frank Lloyd Wright
The audience participated enthusiastically, and the quiz set the mood for the second half of the program. Anil played music by various veterans of Tamil music while Biswajit showed slides of his cartoons-in-progress. Anil played well-known pieces by famous musicians of Tamil Nadu like M.S. Subbulakshmi, Illiaraaja, A.R. Rahman while humorous caricatures were displayed.
The event was organized by Kapil Vishwanathan and Sridevi Raghavan of the Harvard Club of Chennai, with Payal Narain of the Harvard South Asia Institute.
On August 13th, Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute and the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School, led a discussion on“Mobile Technology: Spurring Social and Economic Enterprise in South Asia,” during his visit to Bangalore. The event was hosted by Rajiv Mody,the Chairman and Managing Director of Sasken Communication Technologies, at his residence and drew an eclectic audience of technologists, entrepreneurs, investors, Harvard alumni, and thought leaders.
Professor Khanna opened the discussion by addressing how the use of mobile technology phones has become ubiquitous in South Asia- not only as a tool to close the information gap, but as a powerful device to promote economic growth in emerging markets. The discussion hoped to broaden the understanding of mobile technology and how it can enable economic and social mobility, particularly for those most in need, through improvements in healthcare, education and financial services. Professor Khanna focused on the society-changing potential of mobile technologies and, in particular, on specific mobile applications currently used in developing markets, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India, that have demonstrated a proven impact on social development.
Professor Khanna posited that while developing mobile technology is important, what remains the most compelling and complex issue is to understand the needs and the behavior of the societies that the mobile technologies are aiming to serve. Professor Khanna used examples of mobile projects centered on health and banking to provide insights into what makes mobile solutions successful and scalable. Examples cited included India’s Novopay, Bangladesh’s bKash and Kenya’s M-pesa that provide mobile banking solutions; India’s Janacare and Bangladesh’s Grameenphone that use mobile technology to deliver healthcare solutions.
While mobile technologies have enormous potential, Professor Khanna felt that there are still a lot of open questions. For example, social-business projects need sustainable business concepts, which in turn require substantial financial support and investment. Since governmental support in the Indian economy is crucial, the added value of collaboration between governments and social businesses is important, as without collaboration, governmental regulations may limit innovation. Professor Khanna’s research found that in African countries where regulations have not been enforced or introduced yet, entrepreneurs have quickly turned lack of regulation into beneficial business opportunities.
The data and research work done during the Kumbh Mela was also discussed, which provided insights for further research and teaching on understanding social networks and behavior through studying large data gathered from cell phones used at this mass gathering. Issues about governmental, institutional and regulatory guidelines were addressed to highlight the existing tension between data privacy, sharing of data to promote scientific research, and the potential insights this data may be able to generate. (For more information on the Kumbh Mela Big Data project please visit http://southasiainstitute.harvard.edu/mobile-technology-background/)
Professor Khanna closed by communicating that mobile technology is one of several interfaculty projects SAI is coordinating over the next several years; teaching and learning about neuroscience and addressing gender violence in South Asia are others that are ongoing with partner institutions in India.
Discussion on “Effective Implementation of Primary Education Policies in India.”
As part of the “Best of Harvard in India Series,” the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) and Harvard Business School (HBS) partnered with the Central Square Foundation (CSF) to host a Round Table Discussion on “Effective Implementation of Primary Education Policies in India” on August 1, 2014. CSF is a non-government organization focused on improving the educational outcomes for low-income children in India. The discussion, held in Delhi at the Taj Mahal Hotel, was moderated by Professor Akshay Mangla, Assistant Professor, Business, Government and International Economy Unit, Harvard Business School, and Member of SAI’s Steering Committee.
The discussion was based on Professor Mangla’s extensive field research that focused on the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand (UK) and Himachal Pradesh (HP). The event was well attended by other experts in the field, both governmental and non-governmental, including Mr. S.R. Mohanty, Additional Chief Secretary, Primary education, Madhya Pradesh, Shabnam Sinha, Senior Education Specialist, World Bank, Colin Bangay, Senior Education Advisor, DFID, Madhav Chavan, Co-founder Pratham and others.
Professor Mangla shared with the group his on-ground findings on the present day system, based on the Central Government’s education policy which includes the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, as well as the midday Meal Program and the Right to Education. In the course of his surveys, Prof Mangla has conducted over 500 interviews at the State and district level, as well as at the village and school level. He compared his findings in the Northern states of HP, UK and UP.
There were dramatic variations in school attendance and literacy rates even in these contiguous states, with HP forging ahead of the others because of some innovative social policies. Professor Mangla’s study showed that a progressive and flexible mindset with greater autonomy produced a more effective education system, whereas a rigid bureaucracy proved less effective.
The discussion, with a goal to try to resuscitate the Indian education system – the largest public education system in the world – and make it relevant to Modern India, was focused on three main areas: 1) How to promote deliberation and learning within the state; 2) How to recognize, adapt and upscale best practices: and 3) How to strengthen the public educational institutions.
Several key problems were identified by the group of experts, ranging from lack of leadership in public schools, teacher absenteeism, lack of an accountability and monitoring system to an absence of innovation and incentives. What was clear was that more detailed discussions with recommendations for solutions were needed for the main problems identified. This round table discussion is the first of the series of such research-based workshops organized around this subject.
Of the 543 MPs who were elected to the 16th Lok Sabha, 61 are women. Although this is the highest number of women MPs elected in history, these women will make up only 11 percent of the political body.
On Thursday, May 8, SAI hosted a webinar about the role of women in Indian politics, with Lakshmi Iyer, Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who shared her extensive research in studying how to get more women involved in politics.
Iyer’s research shows that electing more women to political office results in a range of policy changes and development outcomes. Iyer also addressed several methods for increasing political representation of women, including quotas.
SAI checked in with Iyer and Meena Hewett of SAI to get their perspective on what the election results mean for women:
“This is an interesting analysis in all respects. Given my research interests, I was most interested in seeing the share of women in this recent Lok Sabha. While it is good to see 61 women elected to the Lok Sabha, the highest number ever, it is disheartening to find that the fraction of women in the Lok Sabha is still only 11.3%, having increased from 5% in the first Lok Sabha in 1952.
“This is extremely slow progress. A proximate determinant of this is the extremely low participation of women as political candidates: in the 2014 election, only 8% of Lok Sabha candidates were women, up from 7% in 2009. Civil society and political parties should be considering more effective ways to include women in the political process.”
-Lakshmi Iyer, Associate Professor of Business Administration,Harvard Business School
“Even though it is the highest number of women MPs ever elected to the Lok Sabha, the percentage of women representation is still low given that women make up approximately 40% of India’s population. In the previous election, the rate of increase of women representation was 3% compared to an increase of 0.3% this year. Is this progress? Not really. The status of women in India continues to remain low in every area of human development. Real progress will require gender mainstreaming in political representation.
“Specific measures would include reservation of seats in the political arena for women to give them equal opportunities in decision making at all state, district, and local Panchayat levels. Progress will also happen when national and state budgets are gender-focused and government’s investment and expenditures benefit women and girls in rural and urban areas. Public investments should ensure safe access to schools for girls and boys, and families should be encouraged and compensated for sending girls to school.”
-Meena Hewett, Executive Director, South Asia Institute
What do you think about the gender makeup of the 16th Lok Sabha? Share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #SAIwebinar.