Dr Aqsa Agha, Assistant Professor, the Department of History, has been awarded the South Asia Public Health Fellowship Project by The Institute of Public Health (India) in collaboration with the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. As the South Asia Public Health Fellow-India, Dr Agha is expected to conduct research on the ethics of the tobacco industry and submit the report over a period of 8 months, i.e. from December 01, 2021, to July 31, 2022. She has been granted an amount of USD 6660 to carry out the project.
Along with producing a quality case study on India focusing on industry interferences promoting the tobacco epidemic and undermining public policies related to tobacco control, the project entails drafting the regional report on South Asia. It will bring together country-level case studies and implications between December-May, 2022, engaging in the dissemination of the country-level case studies with relevant stakeholders in June-July 2022.
Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) acts as a treaty for ratified countries to protect their citizens against the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry as per guidelines laid down in the said article. Countries of South Asia, including India, have signed and fully ratified this treaty in the early 2000s. However, the lack of robust national policies and continued influence of the tobacco industry perpetuates the tobacco epidemic, as established in the available literature. Given each country’s mandate to protect the health of its citizens, there is a growing need to understand issues of tobacco industry interferences that undermine public policies meant to protect its population. The South Asian Public Health Fellowship is an initiative to generate knowledge regarding issues of tobacco industry interference not only in India but in other countries of South Asia (i.e., Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) to better understand such issues from a regional perspective.
Dr Aqsa Agha holds a PhD in History from the Centre for Historical Studies, JNU. She is also the Project Head of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan at SRM University-AP. Before joining SRM University-AP, Dr Agha was a Consultant with Partners in Change, New Delhi and prepared a report titled “Status of Corporate Responsibility in India, 2020”, focusing on corporate responsibility and ethical business practices. Prior to that, she worked as a Research Officer for National Research Study on Human Trafficking in India at TISS, Mumbai. Before TISS, she worked with the Human Rights Defenders’ Alert- India on human rights violations on the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal. Along with teaching, she has consulted with organisations, including the Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi, where she conducted sessions with grassroots activists to effectively observe, analyse and document reality through participatory research. Her broader research interest lies in historical processes and their impact on the social locations of class, caste and gender.