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News Category: India

Indian Miniature Painting Demonstration with Murad Mumtaz Khan

[HAA184x Painting of India] Learning through Practice: Indian Miniature Painting Workshop with Artist and Art Historian Murad Mumtaz

Materials Lab, Harvard Art Museums, April 6, 2018



As part of her Painting in India Course (HAA184x Painting of India), Professor Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University; and Faculty Director of the Arts at the Mittal Institute, organized a demonstration and workshop by artist and art historian Murad Mumtaz Khan. The course explored the history of Indian painting based on the collections of Harvard Art Museums and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As part of the course, Professor Kim organized several materials lab sessions at the Harvard Art Museums during which time students learned about techniques and materials first hand by making.


Thanks to – Francesca Bewer, Alexandra Gaydos, Penley Knipe, Harvard Art Museums Materials Lab, Dept. History of Art & Architecture, The Mittal Institute, Amy Johnson, and Emma Fitzgerald

Video by Amy Johnson

Videography by Emma Fitzgerald

People’s Road: Connecting Rural Populations

Raile Rocky Ziipao in his Cambridge office


People’s Road: Connecting Rural Populations

By: Raile Rocky Ziipao


In ethnically volatile and militant prone states like Manipur, India, John Denver’s famous lyrics “country roads, take me home, to the place I belong,” does not always apply to villagers.


For over 30 years, the state government has neglected the Tamenglong-Haflong road. The construction of this road was included in the 6th Five Year Plan. During 1980–93, the Public Works Department (PWD) executed some initial work. However, the road remained non-motorable due to faulty alignment and non-completion. In 1997, the State entrusted the Border Road Organization (BRO) with the construction of this road but it declined, citing faulty alignment. Even after repeated assurances from the central government, including the former Union Tribal Affairs Minister Shri P.R. Kyndiah (2006) and Home Minister Shri P. Chidambaram (2011) during their visits to the district, the government did not build the road and the people’s dream of better facilities remained unfulfilled.


Inadequate basic infrastructure limits the movement of goods, people, and ideas, especially in the hill areas predominantly inhabited by Tribals. Even basic needs such as all-weather roads connecting villages, minimum electricity supply, healthcare centers, primary schools, and potable water remain inaccessible for most tribal communities in the state of Manipur. This demonstrates how over India’s seven decades of independence, the state has been negligent when it comes to addressing the problems of tribal people. Tribals are the ones that suffer the ramifications of the Indian state’s indifferent attitude.


Consequences of inadequate infrastructure include villagers carrying their sick on bamboo stretchers to the nearest health center. Oranges and Naga chilies (commonly known as ghost peppers in international markets) grow abundantly in Tamenglong, a hill district in Manipur. However, surplus agricultural products are left to rot as villagers are unable to transport them to the market due to a lack of road access.


After witnessing the hardships faced by people in remote villages in and around the supposed route of the road, a young and dynamic native-born IAS officer named Armstrong Pame took up road connectivity as an immediate requirement in the area. While posted as Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) of Tousem sub-division, he and his elder brother mobilized resources and local communities. They created a Facebook page seeking donations to construct a 100-km rural road.


Previously disconnected from social media, this rural village resorted to Facebook in order to establish infrastructure. A dedicated local resident, Haingiabuing Pame mobilized the village with the following statement: “I shall give all that I have to see the completion of this road. We have waited for too long. This has been my dream. Let us celebrate when it is finished.” The response from across the globe was overwhelming. The local communities took ownership of the road and contributed in a variety of ways including labor, materials, bulldozers, fuel, food, accommodation, and more.


The People’s Road connects the states of Manipur, Nagaland, and Assam in India. It was completed in seven months (August 2012–February 2013), after the state government neglected it for over 30 years. Inaugurated on February 17, 2013, and opened for public use, the motto of this road stands as “together we began, together we built and together we finished.” The monolith commemorating the inauguration of the road reads:



Dedicated unto the glory of God with the celebration of the people’s endeavour by Armstrong Pame, IAS SDO, Tousem. In the presence of all the donors, volunteers and well-wishers, may the present and the future generations remember every single drop of sweat, tears, and contribution rendered for the construction of this road from all over the world.

Date: 17 February 2013, KATANGNAM VILLAGE



Despite considerable odds, the tribal people from India’s most remote district resisted marginalization and surmounted structural obstacles by constructing 100 km of road. By doing so, they succeeded in carving their own path to mobility where the state failed miserably. The collective labor of the community achieved what the second most powerful man in the country could not.


The condition of the Tribals’ infrastructure development in Manipur stands as a testimony of the state’s failure to discharge its duties and responsibilities. Rather than facilitating the needs and political aspirations of the Tribes, the State suppresses and pushes them to the periphery, thereby forcing Tribes to look after themselves. The Tamenglong’s construction and maintenance of roads for livelihood, economic sustenance, and the maintenance of the ecological balance between people and nature have become the model in other parts of the state.


If the state or development practitioners need a consultant on building roads, they should ask the true trailblazers – the Tribal people.


Raile will speak about “Roads, Region Formation, and the Question of Tribes in Northeast India” in Delhi on June 27. 

India Seminar Series: “It’s Complicated – Unpacking the Material Consequences of Political Reservation in Bihar”

By: Ankita Sukheja


This seminar focused on the impact of political reservation in favor of the Schedule Castes (SCs) in the north Indian state of Bihar, by looking at inequality in private wealth and access to public goods. The research presented preliminary findings from 45,000 villages and over 2 crore rural households across the state.


M.R. Sharan, a PhD candidate at the the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, presented joint work with Chinmaya Kumar, University of Chicago on elections in Bihar at a seminar on May 29, 2018,  titled, “It’s Complicated — Unpacking the Material Consequences of Political Reservation in Bihar.” He was joined by Dr. Manindra Nath Thakur, Associate Professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Sharan and Kumar’s work investigates how political reservation in favor of Scheduled Castes (SCs) in Bihar affects inequality in private wealth and access to public goods. It presented data and findings for access to public goods, collected from 45,000 villages across all of Bihar, and analysed data on private wealth for over 2 crore rural households in the state.

The preliminary findings of the study showed that while reservation for SCs does not affect overall provision of resources, it shifts benefits towards SCs. In particular, more public goods are targeted to the main SC village and there is an increase  in private wealth of those closest to the leaders. The results were primarily driven by re-election incentives and same jati (subcaste) preference of elected leaders for people from their own social strata. The study further proposed that the benefits of the political reservation are not uniform and depend on many factors like jati structures and the chances of re-election, creating a complex  web of winners and losers.

An interesting part of the research was the use of night lights as a variable. For each Gram Panchayat, a population-adjusted share of night lights, emanating from the main SC village was constructed and the impact of reservation on this measure was assessed. The innovative approach to documenting economic activity at the village level was well received at the seminar. The study also drew a lot of comments and questions: why was there no interdisciplinary approach in the study? Why was there not more pandering by SC Mukhiyas (village-council head) to the non-SCs, since they formed the dominant voting group in the population? There were also discussions of a similar paper with focus on female reservation. Apart from the data and questions, many stories from the field and anecdotal evidence were also shared by Sharan and Professor Thakur.

The panel closed the discussion with some interesting propositions. Sharan talked about advancing this study to understand whether these trends hold even after the Mukhiyas complete their second term. Other thoughts included exploring the role of electoral competition and whether it should be made mandatory to have reservation for at least two terms across the country.

The study has captured an interesting development in its early stages, given that reservation at the Gram Panchayat level is a relatively new development, introduced only in 2006 in Bihar. This was a time when there were very few elected Dalit Mukhiyas (~ 1 %)  in the state. Prof Thakur also noted that since M.R. Sharan was not originally from the state of Bihar, the research provides a valuable outsider perspective to grassroots impact of political reservation in Bihar.


New Group of Student Ambassadors Joins the Oral Histories Project: Looking Back, Informing the Future

As part of the oral histories collection under the Partition Project, 40 student volunteers  came together last week for their first orientation as ambassadors to collect oral stories from the survivors of Partition. The training was conducted at the Mittal Institute office in New Delhi by Dr. Sanjay Kumar, India Country Director. 

You can learn more about the Partition Project here.



Seed for Change Winner Green Screen


The Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change Program (SFC) aims to develop a vibrant ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in India and Pakistan through an annual competition. Through SFC, grant prizes are awarded to interdisciplinary student projects that positively impact societal, economic, and environmental issues in India and Pakistan. 


We spoke to Gina Ciancone from “Green Screen,” the winning team for India. She discussed the genesis of the project and gave advice to students thinking about entering next year’s competition.


Tell me about the genesis of your project and why this project is important to you.


I led the design of Green Screen throughout a semester-long course taught by Professor Tarun Khanna at Harvard College. The course, “Contemporary Developing Countries,” focused on analyzing the impacts of entrepreneurial solutions to intractable problems in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Our team focused on problems facing the world’s fastest growing megacity – New Delhi, India.


Alongside global health practitioners from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and another designer from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, I developed Green Screen as a solution that could simultaneously address the inter-connected problems of air pollution and extreme heat. Green Screen is a zero-electricity air-cooling panel made entirely of agricultural waste, which would have otherwise been burned by farmers and further contributed to air pollution. In fact, over 27 million tons of agricultural waste are burned annually, exposing nearly 22 million people to the worst air quality in the world. Such intense air pollution also traps in heat within the city of New Delhi and leads to deadly heat waves.


Our solution simultaneously incentivizes an alternative use to excess agricultural waste and transforms “waste” into a product used to cool those most at risk from extreme heat. Green Screen developed through multiple phases of design-thinking: data analysis of heat and pollution in Delhi, as well as a needs assessment of slum communities lead to a fast design charrette of possible solutions which were combined and edited to create a breakthrough idea. As a designer trained in both architecture and urban planning, I am accustomed to working at different scales, which is reflected in the product’s design and projected scalability from a passive cooling screen to a passively cooled building.


My interdisciplinary background and the diversity of the current team, which is composed of a materials scientist, atmospheric chemist, and physician, allowed for the development of an entirely new, unprecedented product. Ultimately, Green Screen is the result of creative problem solving – it utilizes elements from a designer’s toolkit to integrate experimentation, technological possibility, and business success to arrive at an innovative solution. Green Screen represents the intersection of my own training in product design and urbanism. This product will prove that design thinking is a necessary component to impact intractable problems.




What are you most looking forward to in the next steps of your project?


As with any collaborative project, the most rewarding part is learning from those with whom you work. Green Screen’s diverse team of scientists, designers, and global health specialists built a culture of creativity that innovated a breakthrough solution to two of the world’s biggest problems: extreme heat and air pollution. I am thrilled to be working alongside energetic, intelligent, and optimistic professionals whose training is vastly different from my own. The professional diversity allows us to challenge each other to design stronger, more refined solutions during the development process.


While we have already iterated several prototypes of Green Screen, testing to learn (rather than testing to validate) will be a revealing and exciting moment of the project. This summer we will test the screen’s cooling effectiveness at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and receive feedback from engineers and sustainability specialists. Within the coming months, we will be working closely with our sponsors in India, Chintan and WIEGO, to survey housing conditions of target communities, purchase wheat stubble from farmers outside of New Delhi, and implement a pilot product. To really understand the community, we need to be out in the context with people, working with them in their own spaces. I am greatly looking forward to seeing how our passionate team will attract and mobilize more people to gain momentum and achieve lasting change.


Do you have any advice to share with people thinking of applying next year?


My biggest piece of advice is get started! Real innovators do not fear failure. As a designer, I have been trained to “fail fast,” in order to quickly iterate to a more optimized solution. In non-design professions, mistakes are often stigmatized as a road-block instead of an opportunity to adapt. Future teams should be open to these well-intentioned mistakes during the conceptualization and idea-generating stages of their project. Often, “failures” can lead to a novel solution and spotlight sources of new learning.



Gina Ciancone, Designer + Founder

Harvard Graduate School of Design

David Costanza, Materials Scientist

Rice University School of Architecture

Dan Cusworth, Atmospheric Chemist

Harvard University School of Applied Engineering

Ramya Pinnamaneni, Global Health Speciality

Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

Professor Rahul Mehrotra, Advisor

Harvard Graduate School of Design



Professor Tarun Khanna

Professor Martha Chen

Vladimir Gintoff

Alex Robinson

Priya Patel


The Jana Swasthya Project at the 2015 Kumbh Mela

Three years ago, we launched the Jana Swasthya Project at the 2015 Kumbh Mela in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar, India. 

The Jana Swasthya Project was comprised of two components: a large-scale digital disease surveillance program, EMcounter, and a mass screening program for oral health, hypertension and diabetes offered to pilgrims, sadhus, security forces, and all visitors in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar.

You can learn more about this amazing project at this specially-created website:




Seed for Change 2018 Winners Announced

Congratulations to Green Screen and Umbulizer, the winners of our 2018 Seed for Change Competition.


Umbulizer, the winner of Seed for Change Pakistan, will receive $15,000 to further develop a reliable, low-cost, and portable device that can provide continuous ventilation to patients in resource limited healthcare settings. Team members include Shaheer Ahmed Piracha, Umbulizer, Project Lead; Hamza Ali Khan, Harvard Business School, Master in Business Administration Candidate; and Sanchay Gupta, Harvard Medical School, MD Candidate.





Green Screen, winner of Seed for Change India, will receive $40,000 to produce a zero-electricity, modular ventilation panel made from an agricultural waste byproduct and designed for the slums of New Delhi, India. Team members include Gina Ciancone, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Master in Urban Planning Candidate, Master in Architecture Candidate; Ramya Pinnamaneni, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Public Health Candidate; David Costanza, Rice University, Technology Fellow; and Dan Cusworth, Earth and Planetary Sciences Department.





Other finalists:


Saving 9: Saving 9’s motto is ‘You don’t need to be a doctor to saves lives ‘, and the name of our organization comes from the idiom ‘A stitch in time saves 9’. We strongly believe that anyone can learn basic first aid, and hence gain the ability to support a casualty sufficiently during an emergency until they can reach the hospital. It is our organization’s mission to create a ‘safety net’ of first aid ‘literate’ citizens and robust emergency response systems. Our project is focused on creating an emergency response system in a rural village, Pind Begwal.

Team members: Usama Javed Mirza, Saving 9, Co-founder and Program Manager; Muhammad Ovais Siddiqui, Saving 9, Co-founder and Program Finance Head; Zainab Zaheer, Saving 9, Program Coordinator and PR Head; Raissa Chughtai, Harvard College Class of 2021; Saving 9, Program Coordinator and Economic Analyst

Xyal Water: Xyla Water is a water filter company that builds filters based on plant tissues. The purification ability of xylem tissues was discovered and tested by Professor Karnik at MIT. We formed a research collaboration with him to commercialize and make a product out of this filter.

Team members: Syed Waqar Ali Shah, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, PhD Candidate in Mathematics; Iqra Nadeem, MIT, Master of Science Candidate in Technology and Policy Program ; Diane Delava, Academics for Development LLN, CEO; Ali Mannan Tirmizi, Lahore University of Management Sciences Class of 2018



Pre-Texts: Pre-Texts is an effective and efficient pedagogy that acknowledges local strengths that can help promote development in literacy, innovation, and citizenship. The Pre-Texts protocol can raise literacy in low-resource communities thanks to local arts and languages that serve to interpret English language curricular material.

Team members: Anshul Kumar, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, PhD Candidate in Sociology; Jahnvi Singh, Pre-Texts Facilitator and Leaning Design Consultant; Polly Lauer, Research Coordinator for Pre-Texts

Parivartan: In India, rates of child diarrheal deaths continue to be alarmingly high despite overall improvements throughout the world. Treatment for often preventable cases of diarrheal illness is very costly for families in India and more efforts should be made to promote behaviors that prevent incidence of diarrhea in children. Hand washing with soap is a cost-effective means of preventing illnesses caused by bacterial contamination, as it decreases person-to-person transmission. However, India is one of the most water-challenged countries in the world. Project Parivartan aims to mitigate both the problems of water scarcity and absence of hand hygiene practices by introducing alcohol based hand sanitizer (ABHS) to 10 villages in the town of Palghar in Northern Maharashtra, a water-deprived tribal region of India. The use of ABHS as a substitute for hand washing provides a simple and cost-effective means of reducing the spread of diarrheal and respiratory diseases at schools in water scarce areas.

Team members: Alastair Fung, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Public Health Candidate in Global Health Candidate; Nithin Kondapuram, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Science Candidate in Epidemiology; Harvard Medical School, Research Assistant; Sujata Saunik, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Takemi Fellow; Vivian Zhang, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Public Health Candidate

Ten Minutes with Professor Vikram Patel

In the developing world, 95% of people with a clinically significant mental illness receive no treatment at all, and it costs the global economy an estimated trillion dollars a year.

Vikram Patel is a distinguished Indian psychiatrist and The Pershing Square Professor of Global Health at Harvard Medical School. The Mittal Institute’s Hasit Shah caught up with him before our 2018 Symposium, where Professor Patel was one of the key speakers.

The Mittal Institute Hosts Open House on Fostering Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute (SAI), Harvard University conducted an open house on “Trust and Creativity, Fostering Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries,” the last in a series of events planned to mark the official opening of its India headquarters in Delhi.

Tarun Khanna, Director, The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor Harvard Business School, spoke about various aspects of encouraging entrepreneurship in developing nations. Shri Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation and a former investment fund manager and management consultant, took part in the discussion and moderated the question-and-answer session. The Mittal Institute’s India office marks a new era of Harvard University’s direct engagement with the region.

Tarun Khanna, Mittal Institute Director, chats with Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation at an open house in New Delhi.


For more than two decades at Harvard Business School, Prof. Khanna has sought to study the drivers of entrepreneurship in emerging markets as a means of economic and social development. He spoke about the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute’s commitment to studying and researching all aspects of South Asia, alongside its partnership with major Indian institutions in arts, social entrepreneurship, and life sciences. Mr. Sinha spoke about how entrepreneurship can improve economic growth of developing nations like India.

“We strongly believe that encouraging entrepreneurship will help our nation develop by opening multiple avenues for younger generations,” Khanna said. “The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University is committed to disseminating knowledge, building capacity, informing policy, and engaging with issues that are shaping South Asia today, by conducting research across the South Asian region. This open house is part of the monthly seminar series planned by the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute to spur knowledge-sharing amongst thought leaders. I believe these events will encourage a fruitful exchange of views on crucial issues and inform policymaking in a positive way.”

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University, is a university-wide research institute at Harvard that engages faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia. Currently, Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute in India is running programs/research projects in India related to the arts, social science and the pure science. The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute also serves as a nexus for Harvard’s engagement with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as diaspora populations from these countries.

This article was originally published on EduNews Careers 360. 

The Mittal Institute Hosts Student Research Art Exhibition

Sacred Groves, Prathima Muniyappa

Picture 1 of 13

Sacred Groves, Prathima Muniyappa



On Wednesday, April 4th, the Mittal Institute hosted an opening reception for its Spring Art Exhibition, “Showcasing Research in South Asia Through Visual Arts.” It features 2D and 3D art and artifacts inspired by Harvard students who traveled to South Asia sponsored by Mittal Institute travel grants. The show was curated by Sheliza Jamal (Graduate School of Education) and Neeti Nayak (Graduate School of Design). At the event, we chatted with them about the show. 


How did you get involved with this showcase? 

Neeti: While I was doing my research, I realized that there were a lot of art projects that were tangential to the research that I was doing. However, I couldn’t really talk about them when I was doing my thesis project.  I wanted a way to showcase the arts-based side of my project, and I was sure there were other students who had similar motivations. I chatted with Amy [at SAI] and she liked the idea, and we decided to do something about it.

Sheliza: Amy [at the Mittal Institute] told me about the opportunity for an art show, and I jumped at the chance because I am interested in anything art-related.  


How did you choose the theme “Showcasing Research in South Asia Through Visual Arts”? 

Neeti: I’m working on a degree in master’s in design engineering, and we have a heavy focus on interdisciplinary work. To be interdisciplinary, you have to present your work in a way that is digestible by a lot of disciplines. And that’s why being visual is the most important thing [in bringing it to other audiences].


What was your favorite part of the show? 

Sheliza: The images, pieces of art, and artifacts are all manifestations of research in South Asia. Reading about how [the students] were inspired to take a picture, bring an artifact back, or create an original piece of work, was the most inspiring part of curating the exhibition.

Neeti: My favorite part of the show was working with a co-curator who had a completely different perspective on things. We came together to look at the layout of the show and choose the kind of images that best represent a certain line of research. 


What was the submission process like? 

Sheliza: We emailed the database of Mittal Institute grant recipients, and we asked them to submit an image of either an artifact, a piece of work that they had done, or a photograph they had taken while conducting research in South Asia. They also provided a short description so we would get an idea of their research and what that visit meant to them. We wanted to include as many pieces of art as possible, be inclusive as possible, and keep in mind the different regions. We didn’t want to have everything from one country. We were pleased that the exhibit has pieces from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Nepal.