Yet another moment of pride and honour for SRM University-AP as the Indian National Science Academy (INSA, New Delhi) has sanctioned the Project “Nalanda and Bodhgaya: Understanding the past environment and transnational networks of the World Heritage Sites” to Dr Sharmishtha Chatterjee, Assistant Professor, Department of History with a total outlay of Rs 5 lakhs. The co-investigator of the project is Dr Amrita Saha, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Amity Institute of Environmental Sciences and Amity Institute of Social Sciences, Amity University, Kolkata. The project is a pioneering initiative to make a comprehensive study of the landscape and environmental factors (physical and cultural) governing the Buddhist World Heritage Sites of Nalanda and Bodhgaya (Bihar, India).
One of the first attempts in South Asia to understand monasteries and monastic complexes in relation to the landscape parameters, the work is distinctive in its scope and methodology because of its multidisciplinary approach involving archaeology, history, and environmental science. It aims for a holistic understanding of the sites and the region. Bodhgaya and Nalanda are two major Buddhist sites of India, the first marking the site of enlightenment of Gautama Buddha and the other being one of the oldest educational institutes of ancient times. Both the sites have been witnessing travellers, pilgrims, students, and religious preachers from the farthest corners of the world.
The foremost objective is to investigate the environmental settings (location, settlement geography, palaeolandscape features, layout of the monastic complexes, dietary patterns) of the monastic sites. This will be executed through the generation of a series of maps by superimposing colonial site plans, old maps, satellite imageries and corroboration of the same with extensive field surveys. The scientific study of the topographic delineations, soil samples, and artefactual evidences would be undertaken in the course of the study.
These attempts would generate a detailed study of the regular lives in the two monastic complexes along with the social and cultural ties established with the lesser-known monasteries and villages of the hinterland area. The project also seeks to explore the local, national, and transnational networks emanating from the sites, thus contributing to a global networking. The project is expected to create frameworks for extending the study to the other monastic complexes across South and Southeast Asia. In the long run the work will be published in the form of an annotated atlas featuring the monastic complexes, the wider geographical hinterland, and the transnational networks between India and Southeast Asia. This would serve as one of the noteworthy contributions that puts forth a holistic study of the cultural landscapes of the World Heritage Sites.
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.Continue reading →