Author Archives: daktre

Painting with a broad brush: Stereotyping “tribal” identity

Yet another “tribal” story in a national newspaper. Based on my reading, the story is based on the seizure of a consignment of ghee packets at a forest checkpost by the department. Clearly this indicates that some of the ghee packets under a government scheme are finding ways into private markets for sale. Several reports abound about such “hand-outs” entering private markets. Often, these instances are cited as reasons for not giving subsidies or hand-outs. Without going into that larger policy argument, there’s a finer point to be made here on how the “tribal” identity gets typecast in news coverage.

From my letter to the Editor of NIE,

But, is it fair from this information to come to an all-encompassing title that paints all tribals in BR Hills with the same brush? In my opinion, journalists should put more effort into stories. For example, what kind of intermediaries are involved in organising such elaborate siphoning away of these food products? Often various intermediaries siphon away such hand-outs. Even, if ALL tribals were doing this, is it not the responsibility of the reporter to go a bit beyond this story and find out why? Is it not fair to at least interview/ask some tribal leaders/individuals for their opinion and reflect in a story? If a few members of a community/caste of people X residing in (say for example) Mandya were to do the same, would you write a story saying “People of Caste X from Mandya selling ghee for booze”. I would think not. Then why would you sanction such a story on “tribals”.

For a reputed national newspaper of NIE’s credibility, I would have expected higher journalistic and editorial standards.

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What is it like to be a bird?

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Cover of Tim Birkhead’s book Bird Sense

Can we ever know what it is like to be a bird? As poetic as the question may appear to be, it’s fascinating how the question has captured the attention of a bunch of  scientists, artists and other professionals ranging from neurosurgeons, ecologists, physiologists to bird illustrators and medieval travellers. The fascination with bird flight is possibly as old as language itself. Birds are among the early cave paintings, be it in the subterranean caves discovered by teenage boys at Lascaux, or the paintings of Genyornis in cave paintings in Northern Australia that could be 40,000 years old, dating to the time when man set foot on that continent. In Bird Sense, Tim Birkhead who has written fascinating stuff on history of science, birds and birdwatching and has edited the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Ornithology, makes a narrative synthesis of the historical and contemporary knowledge on what it is like to be a bird. An extremely intriguing question throwing up questions such as “Is this know-able?”. Such philosophical meanderings have clearly not deterred several scientists from designing simple and elegent experiments to try and understand this. Continue reading

Of absurd letters and misplaced priorities

It is not too rare to see very bizarre letters. In fact, there have been letters unearthed from over 2000 years ago from the dawn of writing itself often written by people who wanted to complain about services or to authorities. More recent funny letter compilations abound on the Internet, many of them quite lame leave letters supposedly written by staff of  IT companies around Bangalore. But, this letter I chanced upon at one of Karnataka’s tiger reserves (BR Hills) definitely takes the cake on absurdity and ad-hocism, let alone other  more serious issues with the letter like making a mockery of people’s rights for starters. Continue reading

Modi-fying India’s health: Health in the times of India’s new prime minister

This blog was published on the International Health Policies Blog on June 5, 2015 under the same title. It was co-written with Upendra Bhojani, my colleague at IPH, Bangalore

These are interesting times in India, no doubt. Our new prime minister, Narendra Modi is ensuring that India’s global reputation as a progressive, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society with a rich history is not tarnished by several recent reports of sexual violence on women or inter-religious conflict. Immediately after assuming office about a year ago, Modi took India’s image very seriously, perhaps more seriously than many of us imagined. Continue reading

Studying organisational change in Indian district health systems: end of a PhD journey

On 21st April, 2015 I defended my public health PhD dissertation at Universite

Public defence at UCL. Clicking the photo takes you to the ITM public health department's blog on the defence

Public defence at UCL. Clicking the photo takes you to the ITM public health department’s blog on the defence

Catholique de Louvain in Brussels. I sought to understand  organisational change within district health systems in an Indian district. The research was carried out in Tumkur district in southern Karnataka (on which I have blogged a bit). I focused on understanding “change” within a public service bureaucracy like the one we have in Karnataka. Continue reading