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News Category: In Region


Professor Pawan Sinha Visits The Mittal Institute’s India Office


Professor Pawan Sinha, leader of the scientific foundation Project Prakash, recently visited the India office of The Mittal Institute to discuss potential expansion strategies and how the India office can help the foundation achieve its larger goals. In addition to his leadership of Project Prakash, he is a professor of vision and computational neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Project Prakash is supported by The Mittal Institute under its “Multidisciplinary Approach to Innovative Social Enterprises” project, funded by the Tata Educational and Development Trust. Project Prakash addresses two compelling and complementary needs: one humanitarian, the other scientific. Merging scientific research with pediatric care, this project provides treatment to curably blind children, illuminates fundamental questions regarding brain plasticity and learning, and creates a comprehensive picture of pediatric health across several sites in India.

India Country Director of The Mittal Institute, Sanjay Kumar, met with Prof. Sinha and Mr. Ajay Chawaria, Executive Director of Project Prakash Trust, to discuss developing and running Prakash Vision Centers and other innovative ideas for the Project. The Mittal Institute plans to connect with business graduates and entrepreneurs who can work pro bono and advise the Project team in their development and implementation of the expansion strategy.

The Project Prakash Trust will also take the lead in curating and organizing a “Dinner in the Dark” that will take place in July 2019 in Delhi, with the goal of raising awareness and fundraising for the Trust. In a unique format, the participants in this event will dine blindfolded to help them understand the life of blind people — especially the children. The Mittal Institute will help Prof. Sinha’s team connect with relevant groups that can assist in organizing the event. 

India Seminar Series: “Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World”


 

“Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World”, an event jointly organized by The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute and the Harvard Global Health Institute and presented in New Delhi, examined the connections between human, animal and environmental health, and the response to disease outbreaks in India.

The panelists included eminent public health scholars and practitioners, including Ashish Jha, KT Li Professor of Global Health at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and Director, Harvard Global Health Institute, Kayla Laserson, Lecturer of Epidemiology, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Director, CDC India, Preetha Rajaraman, US Health Attache for India and Regional Representative for South Asia, Department of Health and Human Services, and Urvashi Prasad, Office of the Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog.

Rajaraman discussed the transnational scope of epidemics and disease outbreaks, and how the US government is collaborating with India to prepare for and prevent disease, and provide surveillance and disease control programs. Laserson talked about training EIS (Epidemic Intelligence Service) officers to investigate and identify a public health outbreak, implement control measures on the ground and collect research to inform preventive measures.

She recalled an example of an outbreak that occurred during the lychee harvest season in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where children started to suffer from seizures and an altered mental state with no apparent cause. The CDC pathogen discovery lab did not find an infectious pathogen to connect to this strange outbreak; however, the EIS workers, after much research, found that a toxin in lychees causes hypoglycaemia, which can be fatal if the child does not have enough to eat.

Prasad emphasised the need to make India’s central and state public health systems much stronger than they are. Most the of Center’s health budget goes to curative care instead of prevention and public health, but India cannot afford to rely on medical professionals. There is an acute need for a public health workforce to better manage health systems. 

Prof Ashish Jha moderated a conversation that included discussion about India’s preparedness for disease outbreak, the AAYUSH healthcare system, engagement with non-traditional partners, the need for focus on public health and the private sector’s responsibilities. The Mittal Institute will continue to engage in dialogues on public health in India and provide spaces for furthers conversations through such forums.

Meritocracy: What Lessons Can India Learn From China?


 
How should societies identify and promote merit? Enabling all people to fulfill their full potential and ensuring that competent and capable leaders are selected to govern are central challenges for any society. Failure to meet these challenges can have enormous costs, for individuals and for societies as a whole. The richness of China’s historical experience and its distinctive current practices offer useful tools for reflection and comparative analysis. Does the case of China offer any lessons – positive or negative – for India to consider?
 
The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University, have been jointly researching how talent is allocated in a society, how meritocracy has been conceptualized in both India and China, and how its definition has changed over time. Michael Szonyi, Frank Wen-Hsiung Memorial Professor of Chinese History and Director of the Fairbank Center, gave a lecture on ‘Meritocracy in China: Past and Present’ in Delhi on November 27, 2018, as a part of the larger project. 
 
He illuminated two types of meritocracy in China. The first type includes social, occupational or educational meritocracy, through which every individual is presumed to be able to fulfill their full potential by gaining access to education and opportunities for professional advancement. How can the structure of the educational system ensure equality of opportunity? Szonyi described the second type as a ‘political’ meritocracy, where, in a political system, leaders are selected on the basis of their competency. This system is focused on the evaluation of ability. Szonyi talked about how states tend to use some form of meritocracy to select and promote bureaucrats. 
 
He discussed the various debates regarding meritocracy, especially in light of China’s growth in the last 40 years and the perception that the West is faltering. With India touted to be the third largest economy by 2030 and China leading the world economy in the coming years, both countries can teach each other how to better manage and operationalize meritocracy and meritocratic systems in an effective way.
 
Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School, and Director, The Mittal Institute, then summarized the key points of Szonyi’s lecture, and opened the floor to audience questions. Szonyi’s public lecture was followed by a workshop the next day on ‘Meritocracy in India and China’, which included eminent scholars of India and China.

Research Fellowship Opportunity: Soft Robotics Kit Project


We invite applications for a research fellow to work with Professor Conor Walsh at the Harvard Biodesign Lab, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University in collaboration with the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute. Only Indian nationals are eligible to apply.

The project aims to engage students in science disciplines and lower the barrier to participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by developing a line of soft robotic kits. The kits show students possible applications of robotics, such as grasping objects, artificial muscles, locomotion and others. It engages cognitive learning by introducing hands-on skills for prototyping, electronics and programming. More details can be found at https://softroboticstoolkit.com/.

The candidate is expected to have technical and educational skills but also have entrepreneurial interests. The initial year focus will be refining the educational kits, getting feedback from stakeholders (children, educators, government) in India and the US as well as outlining a plan for efforts could be scaled in order to deploy the kits at a number of sites. Experience with teaching STEM topics is preferred, or performing STEM outreach, or developing educational content. 

Candidates should have the following:

  • Master’s degree with 1+ years of work experience; or a Bachelor’s degree with 3+ years of work experience;
  • Passion for education and creativity to help design robotics educational kits;
  • Either Mechatronics/Mechanical/Electrical engineering or STEM education/EdTech background;
  • Excellent communication ability (oral and written) in English; Hindi fluency preferred
  • Strong organizational skills, motivation and desire to work with a team
  • Indian citizenship

Applications, assembled as a single PDF file, should contain a complete cover letter and resume as well as the names and contact information of three references (expected to provide letters of recommendation). 

The position is based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and will require regular travel to India.  

The appointment is for one year as a research fellow with the possibility of continuation for another year. The renumeration for this position is  Rs 33 lakh per annum, approx. 

Queries should be sent to Saba Dave at mittalinstitutedelhi@fas.harvard.edu

Applications should be sent to Conor Walsh at walsh@seas.harvard.edu

Deadline: December 28, 2018

Trauma and Memory: Healing Through Art


Kabi Raj Lama

 

Kabi Raj Lama is a Nepal-based artist and former Visiting Artist Fellow (VAF) at the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University. The VAF Program enables South Asia-based artists to spend a substantial period of time at Harvard, contributing to faculty and student scholarship and bringing valuable educational experiences from the university to their work.

The Mittal Institute’s Delhi office hosts a regular series of artist talks as part of our India Seminar Series. Earlier this month, Lama spoke at the Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s national academy of arts, which collaborated on the organization of the event in Delhi. His talk, entitled ‘Trauma and Memory: Healing through Art’, retraced his life story; he spoke of art, natural disasters and mental health. The event followed a 3-day workshop on stone lithography with the artist and students at the Akademi. 

Lama’s work reflects the complexities of disasters through an intimate portrayal of personal encounters. He also also looks at how art can be used as a form of healing from trauma. A contemporary printmaker who primarily works with lithography and the Japanese mokuhanga (woodcut) medium, Lama talked about his current project, with a colleague at MIT, that takes his work to a completely new dimension of art therapy and scientific inquiry.

He described his experience with mental health issues following two direct encounters with traumatic natural disasters: the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. He talked about his realisation that mental health is often ignored in the process of rebuilding after such disasters. The Mittal Institute is in the process of building a major project around mental health in South Asia – Lama’s talk showed why this is such an important issue.

New Paper: Look/Act East Policy, Roads and Market Infrastructure in North-East India


The Mittal Institute’s Arvind Raghunathan and Sribala Subramanian South Asia Visiting Fellow for 2017/18, Dr. Raile Rocky Ziipaohas published a new paper in Strategic Analysis Journal, entitled ‘Look/Act East Policy, Roads and Market Infrastrcuture in North-East India.’

Abstract:

The socio-politico-economic scene in India’s North-east region has guided certain aspects of the country’s domestic and international policy. The Act East Policy (AEP) of the government of India aims to build relations with the countries of South-East Asia, including trade relations, for which the north-east serves as the gateway. This article seeks to analyse the relevance of the policy: How is it grounded in the complex region of north-east India? In what way can it impact the region? The article argues that the new national road infrastructure bypasses the local economy, and posits the need to link rural infrastructure—especially connectivity and local markets—with regional, national and international markets.

Click here to read complete paper

 

Wintersession Opportunity in India


 
Eligibility: Any current Harvard undergraduate student, sophomore through senior. While the program’s focus is to use science to inspire students to think about leadership and social innovation, we encourage students from all concentrations to apply.
 
If you have any questions, please contact Christopher Li (Associate Director) at christopher_li@hks.harvard.edu
 
More information: Those interested in applying are strongly encouraged to attend one of the two info sessions with Dr. Dominic Mao, Program lead, PSIL:
 
Monday, Nov 5, 7.30PM 
Thursday, Nov 8, 7.30PM
Venue: Sherman Fairchild 095B (MCB/CPB Concentration Office) 
 
Faculty Chair: Venkatesh Murthy, Professor & Chair, Dept. of Molecular & Cellular Biology 
Director: Dominic Mao, Lecturer in Molecular & Cellular Biology
 

APPLY HERE

 

Deadline: Sunday, November 11 at 11.59PM

Indian Science Students: Apply Now for Funded Program in Bengaluru


Applications are now open for a two-week immersion course, based at IBAB in Bengaluru, that will introduce the students to some of the most exciting developments in Synthetic Biology. The students are expected to stay on campus for the duration of the workshop. Travel and lodging costs for selected students will be covered.

Advanced undergraduates (at least two years of study) and early graduate students from any scientific/technical background related to the course from an institution of higher education in India are encouraged to apply.

Gender, Violence and Vulnerabilities of Adolescents in India


 

[L-R] Dr. Sanjay Kumar, Dr. Anita Raj and Shireen Vakil

Researchers in India have undertaken three major studies related to gender, violence and the vulnerability of adolescents. The research has been led by Anita Raj, Tata Chancellor Professor of Medicine and the Director of UC San Diego’s Center on Gender Equity and Health in the Department of Medicine. She is also a Professor of Education Studies in the Division of Social Sciences at UC San Diego.

As part of its successful India Seminar Series, the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University, invited Professor Raj to present her work in New Delhi. Professor Raj’s work is especially pertinent at a time when the conversation around different aspects of gender has been center stage across the globe.

There was an overwhelming response to the event, ‘Gender, Violence and Vulnerabilities of Adolescents in India’, which was attended by key stakeholders across various fields, including non-profits, educators, students and lawyers. The discussion was moderated by Shireen Vakil, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Tata Trusts, and the opening remarks were given by the Mittal Institute’s India Country Director, Dr. Sanjay Kumar.

Professor Raj’s research is designed to inform the Government of India’s Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram Program (National Adolescent Health Program). Here are some of the key findings:

(I) Family violence and suicidality among adolescent boys and girls in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

  • 1 in 20 unmarried adolescents and 1 in 10 married adolescent girls reported suicidality in the past year
  • Suicide/self-harm is a leading cause of death for adolescent girls and boys globally. Family violence appears to increase risk for adolescent suicidality

(II) Process of marital decision-making among adolescent girls in rural Jharkhand.

(III) Partner and non-partner sexual violence against adolescent girls, and the effects of the Nirbhaya case on reporting of rape in India.

  • Non-partner violence and rape crime reports increased following the Nirbhaya case, in December 2012, but not uniformly across the country.
  • There is some indication that districts with higher media access had greater increase in rape reporting to police subsequent to the Nirbhaya case, supporting the value of media awareness to help address violence against women.

The session closed with many important questions, dialogue and various conversations around gender and violence among youth in India. There were discussions around the role of education, social norms and sex education that perhaps resonate with the ongoing conversation on gender around the world.  

More information:

McDougal et al 2018_Beyond the statistic-exploring the process of early marriage decision-making using qualitative findings from Ethiopia and India

Raj et al 2009_When the mother is a child- the impact of child marriage on the health and human rights of girls

Raj et al 2010_ Association between adolescent marriage and marital violence among young adult women in India

Raj et al 2014_Brief report_Parent-adolescent child concordance in social norms related to gender equity in marriage – findings from rural India

Raj et al 2014_Sexual violence and rape in India

Defluoridation of Water: Innovative Tech Solutions for a Spreading Health Crisis


 

Dr. Sanjay Kumar, our India Country Director, introducing the panel at the event titled ‘Tackling Fluorosis: Innovative technology as a solution to the spreading health crisis’ . To his right, Dr. Andrew Haddad, ITR-Rosenfeld Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Dr. Sunderrajan Krishnan, Executive Director of the INREM Foundation (middle), and SriKrishna Sridhar Murthy, CEO of Sattva Consulting (extreme right).

 

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University, put together a panel on defluoridation of water in India, titled, “Tackling Fluorosis: Innovative Technology as a Solution to the Spreading Health Crisis”. The event was part of a project funded by the Tata Trusts-Mittal Institute initiative called “Multidisciplinary Approaches to Innovative Social Enterprises”. The panel comprised of Dr. Andrew Haddad, ITR-Rosenfeld Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Dr. Sunderrajan Krishnan, Executive Director of the INREM Foundation, and Srikrishna Sridhar Murthy, CEO of Sattva Consulting.

The project looks at scalable and affordable methods of removing fluoride from drinking water in fluoride heavy rural areas, where there is a dearth of access to even the very basic resources like proper nutrition, education, and clean drinking water. Excess fluoride in water can cause diseases such as skeletal and dental fluorosis, which, at their most severe, can result in severely stunted, abnormal growth, and damaged joints and bones. Haddad began the panel by elaborating on both the science behind current defluoridation technology used in India as well as the new technique evolved by Gadgil Lab for Energy and Water Research. The new technology, SAFR (Safe & Affordable Fluoride Removal), proposes using raw, locally-sourced bauxite ore to remove fluoride from water, a method which is 3 to 5 times cheaper, more energy efficient and sustainable than present methods of defluoridation.

Water filtration in Jhabua, M.P an area with high levels of fluorosis. Photograph credits: SAFEBillion.org

Krishnan explained how the fluoride crisis in India is a structural problem, which can only be solved through the interaction of a number of factors such as proper nutrition, alleviating calcium deficiencies, and education. However, the people who generally suffer from fluorosis are those that live in extreme poverty and do not have access to enough food, let alone education. The villagers consider the symptoms of fluorosis in a child as a curse, and tend not to believe that a constructive change is needed in their water source as they have many other issues to contend with. Thus, Krishnan talked about the need for safe water, nutrition management, and behavioural change to work together to solve this crisis.

Lastly, Murthy from Sattva Consulting emphasized the importance of a strong structural ecosystem, where all stakeholders – government, scientists, NGOs, natural resource organisations, and the community – must work together if they want to solve the fluoride crisis on a large scale. He mentioned that Sattva works to join all the stakeholders, to scale up the research and implementation, and help to build local capacity.