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

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Impact of Natural Background Radiation on Health

High natural background radiation is a constant presence in the lives of those inhabiting some coastal regions of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. While there is agreement about the existence of radiation, some studies claim that it has no impact on the health of the population, while others disagree. There is a need to examine these findings critically, because of implications for public health, and to understand some of the technical reasons for why some papers appear to find no support for evidence (lack of statistical significance) of impact on health due to high levels of background radiation.

Wet Markets and Food Laws in India: What is Needed to Ensure Safety and Hygiene?

There is a growing worldwide clarion call for a ban on wet markets and meat consumption, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Do wet markets in India pose a risk to food safety? Are our food laws efficient and effectively implemented? The article discusses various laws and regulations, such as Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001 and various local municipal laws that are meant to ensure safety and hygiene of our food and markets.

Revisiting Open Defecation

Since October 2014, the Government of India has worked towards the goal of eliminating open defecation by 2019 through the Swachh Bharat Mission. In June 2014, the results of a survey of rural sanitation behaviour in North India were first reported. The results from a late 2018 survey that revisited households from the 2014 survey in four states—Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh—are presented. Although rural latrine ownership increased considerably over this period, open defecation remains very common in these four states. There is substantial heterogeneity across states in what the sbm did and how. These outcomes suggest the need for a transparent, fact-based public dialogue about the sbm, its costs and benefits, and its accomplishments and means.

Household Assets and Wealth Quintiles, India 2006–16

The potential of National Family Health Survey wealth index to contribute to the discourse on poverty and inequality in India is presented. Between 2005–06 and 2015–16, there have been improvements in ownership and access to fairly basic household assets and amenities, yet, much needs to be accomplished in the provisioning of pucca houses, clean cooking fuel, improved toilet facilities as well as access to the digital world through computers and the internet. Inter-household inequalities in asset ownership have declined, but there are large intergroup inequalities with particularly disadvantaged asset ownership profiles for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Muslim households. Interstate inequalities in asset ownership, however, have increased. The increased concentration of asset poor is found in Bihar, whereas Punjab and Haryana experience increased share of richest households. Overall, based on robustness checks, the NFHS wealth index is an important proxy of socio-economic status and offers considerable scope for timely and systematic analysis of economic inequalities.

Sanitation and User Charges in Indian Slums

Despite the efforts of successive governments, sanitation coverage remains low in India. While several studies have explored the impact of user financing on the improvement of sanitation facilities, this article looks at the conditions of housing, infrastructure and the surroundings of slums, under which different sanitation arrangements are made. The sanitation arrangements considered are of various types of ownership and cost-sharing arrangements. The findings provide useful insights that challenge one of the basic motivations for user financing: increased accountability in service delivery.

Neglect of Household Biomedical Waste

While India has had a biomedical waste management rule since 1998, which was modified for ease in 2016, household biomedical waste has been neglected. Increased lifespan, rise of non-communicable diseases, the growing buying power, and better access to healthcare have resulted in the increased generation of household biomedical waste. This poses serious challenges to a frail public health system. This growing problem needs to be tackled by acknowledging it, introducing guidelines, and decentralising solutions, including facilitating recycling.

Reconciliations of Caste and Medical Power in Rural Public Health Services

Drawing from an ethnographic study conducted in a Karnataka village, the unfavourable differential treatments against Dalit patients in rural public health services are delineated. An analysis of medical interactions shows that as compared to non-Dalits, Dalit patients experienced more apathy, denial, and avoidance behaviours from service providers. Surprisingly, most Dalits did not attribute this to their caste, but to the flaws of the public health delivery system. Caste and allopathic medical practice are embedded in the rural public health delivery system, and both camouflage and normalise discrimination in paternalistic medical interactions. This sustains the favourable environment for caste-based discrimination in rural public health services even in places where Dalit consciousness is strong.

The 'Spittoon Syndrome'

The unsanitary and uncivilised act of spitting is a culture-specific syndrome. New strategies need to be designed to tackle this problem.

Raising a Stink

Open defecation will continue until we link water with sanitation.

Transport and Health

There has been much firefighting in Delhi in the name of clean air, but very little effort in understanding the causes of air pollution. So while we know that urban air pollution poses serious health risks to people living in Indian cities, we do not have a consensus on the details regarding the sources of the pollutants. This is mainly because central and local governments have not invested in setting up and funding an adequate number of research groups in academic institutions to conduct detailed studies around the country. Such neglect leads to knee-jerk reactions like the odd-even scheme.

Hand-Washing and Public Health

The importance of hand-washing in personal and public hygiene has evolved over the centuries. While the market with its countless number of soaps and hand-wash products for personal hygiene with the accompanying advertising has created a false sense of security, it is community hygiene implemented through public health measures that is really effective in the battle against disease.

Understanding Issues Involved in Toilet Access for Women

While insufficient sanitation facilities often get represented in statistics and are reported in the literature on urban infrastructure planning and contested urban spaces, what is often left out is the everyday practice and experience of going to dysfunctional toilets, particularly by women. By analysing the practices and problems associated with toilet use from a phenomenological perspective, this article aims to situate the issue in the everyday lives of women.

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