ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mobile Phones for Maternal Health in Rural Bihar

Health programmes that are using mobile phones to improve maternal health in rural India are examined. Presented by its promoters as a universal, accessible and “smart” empowering technology, how mobile devices transform gender inequalities on the ground is analysed. By using empirical data collected on a global mHealth programme deployed in Bihar, how mHealth devices negate the multifactorial dimension of gender and health inequalities is explained, and also how these devices can reinforce inequalities on the ground is examined.

Open Defecation in Rural India, 2015–16

The Government of India’s NFHS–4 offers the best new data on open defecation in rural India to be eleased in over a decade. Although open defecation has become less common than it was 10 years ago, it is still highly prevalent, with more than half of rural households reporting open defecation. On average, change has been slow, even during the period of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

Efficiency of Healthcare Sector in Bihar

In this article, we focus on the efficiency of the healthcare system at the district level for Bihar. Although relatively an economically and socially disadvantaged state, the infant mortality rate in Bihar is very close to the all-India average. We explore the reasons for the differential performance of different districts by using data envelopment analysis. The efficiency rankings from our results indicate a mix of inefficiency, inadequacy of inputs, and the presence of an optimal targeting of funds under the National Rural Health Mission to low-performing districts.

Silenced and Marginalised

An attempt has been made to demonstrate the linkages between the socio-economic-cultural marginalisation of children and their educational marginalisation. This is achieved through a thick description of the living and working conditions of the children, and the interplay between the factory, residence, school, market, family and other support systems, in order to gauge the social reality of these children.

Targeting Lalu

The timing of the raids on Lalu Prasad Yadav hints at political vendetta more than accountability.

Bihar’s Burden of Child Stunting

The prevalence of child stunting in Bihar is as high as 48%. This study of the immediate and underlying causes of stunting reveals that only 15 of Bihar’s 38 districts are on course to reach the global target of 40% reduction in child stunting by 2025, with some districts likely to take over 25 years to reach the target. The data disaggregation at the district level presented here can help district managers use publicly available data to design and strengthen nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes to lower the incidence of stunting.

Poverty Alleviation in Bihar

The paper “Eliminating Poverty in Bihar: Paradoxes, Bottlenecks and Solutions” is near perfect in terms of the issues raised. But there is a need to go beyond focusing on the economic and infrastructural aspects of development. A complex society like Bihar needs a revolution in terms of bureaucratic restructuring, remittance-based planning, and promotion of an entrepreneurial culture.

Underscoring Political-Criminal Nexus

The incident of communal violence in Agarpur, Vaishali, Bihar in November 2015, clearly points to the widespread nexus among hoodlums, politicians with criminal records, and the police in the state. Dismantling this criminal patronage network, which perpetuates communalism and casteism and exacerbates lawlessness, is one of the biggest challenges that confronts the Nitish Kumar regime.

Food Security

Bihar's public distribution system used to be one of the worst in India, but the system has improved significantly from 2011 onwards. The National Food Security Act, backed early on by the political leadership, enabled the state to include the bulk of the rural population in this improved system. However, there is still a long way to go in ensuring that the system is reliable, transparent and corruption-free.

Fodder Scam, Lalu, and the Conviction

Lalu Prasad Yadav's long innings in the politics of Bihar has most probably come to an end with the Central Bureau of Investigation's special court convicting him in the fodder scam case. For all his political acumen and grandiose rhetoric, a term of 11 years in the political wilderness after the conviction is very unlikely to see either him or his Rashtriya Janata Dal re-emerge as potent forces.

Music Mania in Small-town Bihar

There has been little academic attention on the rise and spread of the Bhojpuri music industry in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. This article tries to size up the industry both in terms of its growing economy as well as significance as a platform for the development of a new form of cultural identity. Based on intensive field-based research covering over 80 artists and other participants of this industry all across the region and cities like Mumbai and Delhi, it argues that a new form of vernacular identity is being formed in the interstices of migration, remittances, secularisation and globalisation.

Making Social Science Matter - II

Part I of this paper, which appeared last week, described the patterns of participation of the rural poor in state-sponsored schemes and the characteristics of political society in each of the blocks and districts studied. It also provided evidence on the scale and significane of rent-seeking behaviour, and a preliminary mapping of what has been called 'the anthropology of the everyday state'. We turn now to a discussion of an 'action research' project that followed on from our 'academic' research. This project involved the research team in a prolonged dialogue with different groups of actors in Malda and Bhojpur districts that we had identified as 'failing' districts from the point of view of effective pro-poor governance. We comment briefly on the background to this research and describe how we organised the action research process before proceeding to present the main findings of the workshops that we held in these two districts. These findings speak of the ways in which different groups of stakeholders, and members of the rural poor most especially, see the state in Bhojpur and Malda and how they would like to see certain practices of the state abolished, extended or reformed.

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