ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Aashish GuptaSubscribe to RSS - Aashish Gupta

Understanding Open Defecation in Rural India

India has far higher open defecation rates than other developing regions where people are poorer, literacy rates are lower, and water is relatively more scarce. In practice, government programmes in rural India have paid little attention in understanding why so many rural Indians defecate in the open rather than use affordable pit latrines. Drawing on new data, a study points out that widespread open defecation in rural India is on account of beliefs, values, and norms about purity, pollution, caste, and untouchability that cause people to reject affordable latrines. Future rural sanitation programmes must address villagers’ ideas about pollution, pit-emptying, and untouchability, and should do so in ways that accelerate progress towards social equality for Dalits rather than delay it.

Caste and the Power Elite in Allahabad

This article examines the social composition of public institutions in Allahabad, and specifically, the share of different castes and communities in positions of power and influence - the Press Club, the university faculty, the Bar Association, the police, and the commanding positions in trade unions, non-governmental organisations, media houses, among other public institutions. These turn out to be heavily dominated by a small group of upper castes - Brahmins and Kayasthas in particular. Disadvantaged castes, for their part, are largely relegated to subordinate or menial positions. The findings raise troubling questions about the resilience of caste hierarchies. Aside from better enforcement of reservation norms, there is an urgent need for more voluntary attention to diversity in public life, of the sort that has significantly reduced ethnic or gender imbalances in other countries.

Are Children in West Bengal Shorter Than Children in Bangladesh?

Children in West Bengal and Bangladesh are presumed to share the same distribution of genetic height potential. In West Bengal they are richer, on average, and are therefore slightly taller. However, when wealth is held constant, children in Bangladesh are taller. This gap can be fully accounted for by differences in open defecation, and especially by open defecation in combination with differences in women's status and maternal nutrition.

Old-Age Pension Scheme in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh

A survey of the functioning of the National Old-Age Pension Scheme in two districts of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh reveals that beneficiaries have difficulties in accessing the banking system and face inordinate delays in receiving their meagre pensions. Yet, the scheme functions as an important provider of social security to the elderly. The findings suggest that a reasonable increase in the amount of the pension and streamlining the delivery mechanism would significantly help reduce old-age vulnerabilities in the two states.

Evaluation of NREGA Wells in Jharkhand

A common criticism of the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme is that it does not lead to the creation of permanent assets and a sustained increase in incomes. This fi eld study of the construction of wells in one block in Ranchi district of Jharkhand shows that asset creation under this programme can result in the creation of income-generating assets.

Revealed Preference for Open Defecation

Despite economic growth, government latrine construction, and increasing recognition among policymakers that open defecation constitutes a health and human capital crisis, it remains stubbornly widespread in rural India. We present evidence from new survey data collected in Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Many survey respondents' behaviour reveals a preference for open defecation: over 40% of households with a working latrine have at least one member who defecates in the open. Our data predict that if the government were to build a latrine for every rural household that lacks one, without changing sanitation preferences, most people in our sample in these states would nevertheless defecate in the open. Policymakers in India must lead a large-scale campaign to promote latrine use.

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