The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire globe, requiring quick action from governments and the populace to stem the flow of transmission. With many in quarantine or lockdown, the pandemic has changed the daily way of life for many around the world. This week, we spoke with members of the Mittal Institute team in India, Nepal, and Pakistan to get a firsthand look into the situation on the ground in South Asia, from recent governmental guidance and regulations to the response of the population and how it will impact society.
Category : India
Led by Caroline Buckee (Center for Communicable Disease, Harvard T.H. Chan), Satchit Balsari (HMS and HSPH), and Andrew Schroeder (Direct Relief), the COVID-19 Mobility Data Network aims to “provide daily updates to decision-makers at the state and local levels on how well social distancing interventions are working.” The team is made up of a network of infectious disease epidemiologists located at universities around the world.
For my dissertation project, I hope to trace the stories of Tamil drama artists, as they traveled, performed, and lived between 20th century Madras Presidency, Ceylon, and British Malaya. This winter, I went on a research trip to Madurai and Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to understand the infrastructures that supported these artists’ travels, as well as the kinds of performances they held abroad.
The India Digital Health Network (IDHN) is a research and policy collaborative focused on the development of a patient-centric and provider-friendly health data exchange ecosystem in India. Recently, the IDHN team submitted comments to a Joint Committee of the India Parliament on the 2019 Personal Data Protection Bill, which aims to protect the personal data of individuals throughout India. To learn more, we spoke with Nivedita Saksena about her role as the first IDHN Policy Fellow and the accomplishments, goals, and future of IDHN in India.
Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump traveled to India for two days. In an exclusive broadcast from Harvard Business School, the India Today News Director Rahul Kanwal discussed the potential impact of Trump’s visit to India in terms of trade, economy, and electoral politics. He was joined by Professor Tarun Khanna (Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the Mittal Institute), Punita Kumar Sinha (Founder, Pacific Paradigm Advisors), Ashutosh Varshney (Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences at Brown University), and Vipin Narang (Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT).
Over the last three weeks of my winter vacation, I traveled to Hindu temples throughout South India, with the goal of understanding the inspirations and motivations that drove musicians to compose about the idols worshipped at these establishments. Starting from the Eastern temple city of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, I snaked along the Eastern coast of the Indian peninsula, ultimately arriving to the country’s southern tip at Kanyakumari, before continuing through the hill stations of Kerala and ending at Guruvayur, Kerala.
In 2019, the Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change competition awarded the Gramhal team, composed of members Vikas Birhma and Pankaj Mahalle, first place. Over the past year, the funding from the competition has helped take their social enterprise initiative off the ground, and Gramhal has already had a significant impact on the lives of smallholder farmers in India. In the last few months of 2019, over 50 farmers sold their produce — worth USD 100,000 — through Gramhal, receiving a fair and higher price.
Project Prakash recently hosted a successful UnrulyArt event at its center in the Shroff Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi. The participants were Prakash children, who had been treated for congenital cataract under Project Prakash in the last few years. Among the oldest of the Prakash children participating in the event were sisters Bushra and Fatima, who had traveled with their father from Panipat in Haryana, covering a distance of no less than a hundred miles.
Through the Mittal Institute’s South Asia and the Arts Travel Fund, I traveled to Vadodara, Gujarat and Mumbai, Maharashtra in India to conduct research for my qualifying paper, a requirement in the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard University. My qualifying paper explores the conception of the mother-child motif in ancient India within Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions, and expands on the function and role of these goddesses and the similarities and differences in their worship.
A seven-member delegation from Harvard College recently visited the Indian state of Manipur to conduct the second iteration of the Program for Scientifically Inspired Leadership (PSIL), a program that would encourage local high school students and college-level teaching assistants in a Western-style education format.
Professor Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School, recently traveled to Bangalore to give a talk on her latest book that delves into these issues. The book, Can Science Make Sense of Life?, looks at flashpoints in law, politics, ethics, and culture to argue that science’s promises of perfectibility have gone too far. Science may have editorial control over the material elements of life, but it does not supersede the languages of sense-making that have helped define human values across millennia: the meanings of autonomy, integrity, and privacy; the bonds of kinship, family, and society; and the place of humans in nature.
This January, the Mittal Institute launched a new podcast titled “India In-Focus” in collaboration with The Times of India. The podcast promises to bring one-on-one discussions between faculty and experts from Harvard around the transformative research and pivotal breakthroughs that have the potential to transform how India conducts business, creates new ideas, and tackles pressing social, technological, and environmental challenges.