The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented challenges for India, with wide ranging consequences for
health and wellbeing. Much that we know has been disrupted. To help provide insights into the processes and
best-practices that have proved useful in responding to the crisis, Azim Premji University
has selected and funded a series of focused proposals for research on COVID-19 in the Indian context.
The following projects were selected to provide focused, concrete results and insights to help
formulate the design of actions and responses in the short-term and policies in the long-term:
Role of Local Self Government, Panchayats and Community Based Organisations during Corona Pandemic (a case study of Rajasthan)
Kumarappa Gram Swaraj Sansthan
COVID-19 Pandemic demands concerted efforts of all state and non-state actors.
Local governments (LGs) are expected to take up functions for local economic
development and social justice in addition to civic functions. And during disaster
situations, people look up to them for addressing their basic needs, concerns and
issues. Being the closest government, it is likely that the affected persons will
approach the Local Government for their essential services and other requirements.
However, it was noted that the existence of LGs and CBOs (community-based
organisations) during disaster situations had been almost ignored in the policy
documents, contrary to their potentials and possibilities for positive initiatives
and interventions at the 'ground zero'. The functions performed by the LGs reported
from different parts of the country only reinforce the hypothesis that Local Government is the
most important political institution to realise community-based disaster preparedness by ensuring
active involvement of elected members at different spheres, officials, members of community-based
organisations and all other stakeholders. All these indicate that the LGs have a vital role which
has been trusted on them by virtue of being the grassroots leadership role at the ground in times of distress.
And if they can tap and effectively utilise the dynamism, energy, zeal and other unique features,
the result of such exercises would be much better. In this context, it is proposed to conduct a
survey based on primary data to bring in the diverse practices and experiences by the LGs and CBOs from
2 districts of Rajasthan (total 10 Gram Panchayats - 5 Gram Panchayats each in Tonk and Jaipur districts)
towards the effective management of COVID-19.
Principal Researcher: Amit Kumar, Project Leader, Kumarappa Gram Swaraj Sansthan
COVID-19 Research on Frontline Workers in Bihar and Himachal Pradesh
Avani Kapur | Sanaya Sinha | Udit Ranjan | Sanjana Malhotra | Ritwik Shukla
Centre for Policy Research
With the onset of COVID-19, various frontline workers - Anganwadi workers (AWs),
auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs), and accredited social health activists (ASHAs) - have begun performing new roles.
This study aims to understand the evolving role of these frontline workers and barriers and
facilitators of their performance. The study will be conducted across two states - Bihar and Himachal
Pradesh - with a focus on two districts in each State.
Principal Researcher: Avani Kapur, Director, Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research
Community Mobilisation and Good Governance: Via the Community Radio Network – Umeed,
in the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand, in the time of Covid-19
Saritha Thomas | Arun Sarkar
People's Power Collective
Atmnirbhar Adivasis : Community Role in Prevention and Management
of Covid Crisis: An Assessment of the Situation, Challenges and Good Practices
Alma Grace Barla
Samajik Seva Sadan
The global COVID-19 Pandemic has alarmingly spread across the countries; however, the rural communities,
including Adivasis/tribals, have been disproportionately affected due to their marginalisation. On top of
the COVID-19 infections and deaths, the Pandemic and lockdown have compounded their already poor health,
economic and social conditions. Many people lost jobs and livelihoods, endured food insecurity, faced dismal
health services and quarantine facilities, and bore psychological stress from fear and anxiety. They could not
sell their farm and forest produce, which were a source of their livelihood. Rural and pregnant women like
other non-COVID patients could not access to appropriate health services. Return of lakhs of migrant workers
from the city to their villages also has created additional socioeconomic challenges in the villages. However,
to cope with the health and economic crises, Adivasi communities have explored alternative ways of living and
livelihoods, such as the promotion of traditional food, health and agricultural practices, herbal medicine,
community sharing of food items and barter system, community surveillance, community vaccination etc. Producing
hand sanitizers from the native Mahua flower in the states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha etc.
not only helping fighting spread of infections but also creating livelihood for rural women. Therefore, this study
aims to assess the impact of COVID-19 on rural Adivasi communities and how they are cooping-up. Through documentation
of good practices, this study will also explore the development of strategies by the community for
short and long term management of the crisis, and how traditional health practices could be promoted.
Principal Researcher: Alma Grace Barla, Independence Researcher and Social Worker
Exploring the challenges, psychological problems, and mental health needs among
frontline health workers of government hospitals: A study in Hyderabad Karnataka Region
Romate John | Rajkumar E | Roopesh B N | Shruti Sharma | S Jeyavel | Rashmi R
Central University of Karnataka
Frontline health workers are the backbone of an effective health system,
and they play a critical role in providing health solutions along with connecting
families and communities to the health system. Although the profession of health care
is vested with the responsibility of reducing the distress and burden of others,
the health care staff is the ones who undergo tremendous distress due to their occupation.
Working in an unprecedented situation, usually beyond their capacities, and with a risk of
contracting the infection, poses frontline healthcare workers at an increased risk of mental
health problems. There have also been reports of suicides, as healthcare professionals are
faced with accumulated psychological pressure and intense fear of dying; physicians are
already at an increased risk of suicide compared to the general population. It is essential
to address the psychological problems they undergo during this crisis, Hence; the study aims
to explore the challenges, psychological issues and mental health needs among frontline
health workers of government hospital during the COVID-19 Pandemic which results in addressing
the challenges, psychological problems, mental health needs of the of frontline health workers of
government hospital during the COVID-19 Pandemic and develop intervention strategies.
Blue-print for Assisted Telemedicine for Rural Healthcare Ecosystem
T K Srikanth | Divya Raj
International Institute of Information Technology. Bangalore
Analysing, developing and doing pilot runs of an "Assisted Telemedicine" model towards designing a
blueprint of a telemedicine platform for catering to the rural healthcare needs during COVID-19.
The model will be intended to provide tele-consultation services to rural citizens with doctors in primary
healthcare centres while plugging in community health workers and paramedics for assistance. The key points of the study are:
- Analysing the rural healthcare ecosystem in the identified blocks to closely understand the dynamics, constraints and challenges in Covid-19 times
- Analysing the user personas of doctors in primary healthcare centres (as tele consultation-providers), community health workers (as tele consultation-facilitators) and rural populations (as patients)
- Designing and developing a pilot telemedicine platform aligning to the basic principles of design thinking towards addressing the need for screenings with social distancing, and working around the infrastructure and resource constraints
- Building design features towards enabling longitudinal case history of patients and studying the possibility of leveraging those for their subsequent visits towards ensuring a better quality of care and continuity of care at lower costs.
- Incrementally adding features into the telemedicine platform leveraging the learnings from the trial runs.
- Identifying parameters to be considered for scaling up of the platform at district and state levels
Principal Researcher: TK Srikanth, Professor, International Institute of Information Technology- Bangalore
Study on the Role of Rural Local Bodies in Pandemic in Odisha
Diganta Mohanty | Jyotshnamayee Nanda | Prakash Kumar Sahoo | Niranjan Sahoo | Ranjan Kumar Malik | Banamali Sahoo Kartabya
The objective of this study is to find out the efficacy of the pandemic resilient governance practices by the
Gram Panchayats of worst affected Districts in management of COVID-19 in the State. The study will primarily
focus on the best practices in communication, decision making, logistic management, financial management and
other governance mechanisms adopted by the Panchayats vis-a-vis the administrative & financial back up provided
by the state government in managing the covid-19 Pandemic. The study will cover 35 Panchayats, in three districts,
Khordha, Cuttack, and Ganjam selected based on the incidence of COVID-19 infections. The study will cover 357
stakeholders, including patients, Panchayat representatives, officials at all levels and front line service providers.
There will be 70 Focus group Discussions with the community members and Ward level COVID-19 Management Committees.
The study shall be completed in three months. The findings of the study will guide other states in
India and abroad to engage rural local bodies in effectively managing the current Pandemic now and in future.
Principal Researcher: Diganta Mohanty, Senior Social Development & CSR Professional
Combating COVID-19 by Panchayati Raj Institutions - A comparative study of Elected vs Non-elected Village Panchayats in selected districts of Tamil Nadu
Inbarasan K G | Gurusaravanan M | Prabagaran M
Institute of Grassroots Governance
COVID-19 Pandemic proves that local government institutions are very important
in the fulcrum of decentralised governance in our country. Whenever a disaster occurs,
it is the community who is the first to respond. In this case, the presence of an active local
government is indispensable to tackle the disaster effectively. The powers devolved by the
respective state governments towards the local government institutions vary, and it influences
the nature of works/efforts to need to be done at the grassroots level. It is imperative to take
up a comparative study between the village panchayats (VPs) with elected leadership and VPs
without elected leadership in the select districts of the State, as that will enable us to
analyse the effectiveness and efficiency of elected leadership in combating COVID-19 at the
Principal Researcher: Inbarasan KG, Research Lead, Institute of Grassroots Governance
Understanding the perspectives of frontline health workers (ASHAs, Anganwadi workers and ANMs) to improve COVID 19 containment efforts at the community level
Stutilina Pal | Devanik Saha
Self Reliant Initiatives through Joint Action (SRIJAN)
The study by SRIJAN aims to examine the perspectives of ASHAs, ANMs and Anganwadi workers (hereafter referred as
health workers) on their COVID-19 containment efforts and how can these perspectives and experiences be effectively
leveraged at a policy level to fight the COVID-19 Pandemic in Bundelkhand region. We plan to conduct this study
across four districts of Bundelkhand: Tikamgarh & Chattarpur (Madhya Pradesh) and Hamirpur & Chitrakoot
(Uttar Pradesh). The study will employ a mixed-methods approach with a combination of structured quantitative
questionnaires and qualitative interviews with these health workers. The primary question for our research study
will be: How can we effectively leverage frontline health workers for COVID-19 containment
efforts at the community level? The research study will achieve the following outcomes:
An intersectional understanding of the social, cultural, and economic challenges faced by health workers
during COVID 19 containment efforts in their communities
Perspectives of health workers on the effectiveness of government efforts on contact tracing, containment
and surveillance guidelines at the community level
Actionable suggestions for the government by health workers which can help them to execute their
COVID-19 responsibilities safely and effectively
Remote Gossip Pilot to Improve Uptake of Routine Immunisation
Varsha Venugopal | Fiona Conlon | Nithya Nagarathinam | Tanay Chanda
The expansion of immunisation since 1990 cut deaths from infectious diseases in India by an estimated 4.5
lakh per year. But India's tough measures to fight COVID-19 have led to many children missing vital routine
vaccinations. Allowing the Pandemic to disrupt routine vaccination across India risks new outbreaks and epidemics
of preventable diseases such as measles. The project will be carried out in the Saran district, Bihar in India.
The project design is based on a method found to increase immunisation uptake by 27% in a large-scale randomised
controlled trial (RCT) in Haryana, India, by 2019 Nobel-Prize-winning economists Abhijeet Banerjee and Esther Duflo.
This "gossip ambassador" model harnesses the science of community networks by identifying local influencers and
recruiting them to become volunteer immunisation ambassadors. These influencers were found to be more effective for
increasing immunisation uptake than SMS reminders to parents or small mobile credit incentives.
Principal Researcher: Varsha Venugopal, Co-Founder, Suvita
Civil Society Response to Domestic Violence during COVID-19 | Building Better Support for Survivors
Vandita Morarka | Ashita Alag | Sanaya Patel | Uttanshi Agarwal
One Future Collective (Morarka Leadership Foundation)
The COVID-19 Pandemic brought with it unique challenges which impacted all spheres of our lives.
While domestic violence (DV) is not unique to the Pandemic, there is increasing evidence and consensus
that the lockdown ordered to deal with the Pandemic has aggravated cases of DV and new patterns of DV
have also emerged arising from the new conditions that the people are compelled to live in. This year,
during the lockdown, between 25th March and 31st May, -- 31,477 complaints of DV were filed, which was
the highest for that period in 10 years. At the same time, the Pandemic has reduced or in some cases made
completely non-functional the formal and informal justice and support systems that were in place for DV
survivors. The systems we have in place from the pre-COVID era were already inadequate in how they responded
to DV, for instance, the lack of trauma-informed, or survivor-centric approaches adopted by authorities or
even the inadequacy of infrastructural requirements to support the safety needs of survivors. This study aims
to draw out best practices for responses to DV incidents during a lockdown and extrapolate from these possible
solutions and adaptations to design intervention models
that are more reflexive in addressing the needs of survivors of DV based in urban areas.
Principal Researcher: Vandita Morarka, Founder & CEO, One Future Collective
Study of Female Frontline Community Healthcare Workforce In India during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Bhanupriya Rao | Sreya Dutta Chowdhury
WomenUnlimited Media Pvt. Ltd.
One million accredited social health activists (ASHA) have been on the frontlines of India's response to
COVID-19 Pandemic. They have been conducting syndromic surveillance, tracking migrant returnees, policing
quarantine centres and acting as the first and extremely crucial link between COVID-19 response, treatment
and control measures. While ASHA workers have been doing the heavy lifting at the frontlines, Auxiliary Nurse
Midwives (ANMs) and Anganwadi workers have played a crucial role at the community level, which is least understood.
This study proposes to advance our understanding on the role played by ASHA workers along with Anganwadi
workers and ANMs to look at the themes of health worker rights, the burden of work, incentives and pay structures,
availability of protective gear, impact on their mental health,
policy and infrastructure design, and state protection against physical assaults and abuse.
The research investigates the above themes in 10 states with intensive qualitative and qualitative research methods.
The study states are Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh.
Principal Researcher: Bhanupriya Rao, Founder, BehanBox
Understanding the role of public health system reforms in combating COVID-19 pandemic in the State of Kerala, India
A.S. Pradeep Kumar | Sreejini J | Maya Annie Elias | Arsha
Health Systems Research India Initiative Trust
The experience of COVID-19 management in the State of Kerala proves beyond doubt the
role of a resilient public health system with trained public health staff to conduct
surveillance, testing, home isolation, contact tracing and treatment. Kerala had initiated a health
sector reform agenda in 2016 with the launch of two state programs. The first one being 'AARDRAM" which is
aimed at providing' Patient Friendly Hospital Services" at all levels of government health facilities and the
second one is Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) program aimed at extending the coverage of primary health
care services in the State. The AARDRAM mission led to drastic changes in hospital improvements through collaborative
action with the Local self-government, community organisations and the hospital development committees.
This experience of "public health system" led health sector reforms helped the State to manage the COVID-19 more
robustly. The main objective of the study is to develop an understanding role of a "resilient public health care
system" in supporting effective control and treatment of COVID-19 Pandemic in the State of Kerala. In this respect,
the study will focus on the policies which have led to the creation of a strong public health care system with a
focus on primary care reforms aiding active surveillance, contact tracing, home isolation and treatment of COVID-19
patients in the State of Kerala.
Building SOPs for Grievance Redressal to Reduce Exclusions in Access to Social Protection Schemes for Poor and Vulnerable Populations
OnionDev Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (Gram Vaani)
The COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent public health measures followed in India for containment of the
pandemic spread have severely impacted poor and vulnerable populations on food security, livelihood, and
access to health services. Although the government has mobilised several relief measures, there has been
extensive documentation of exclusion of deserving people from availing these social protection measures.
In this study, such issues faced by the people, understand reasons behind the exclusions, assist people to
avail welfare and social security schemes, and advocate with public authorities for improvement in the operational
processes to reduce exclusions. As part of this proposal, our goal is to continue this work along a logical next
step to build an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for grievance redressal that can be followed by CSOs
(Civil Society Organisations) and government line departments to assist poor and vulnerable populations to
gain access to schemes. We will focus on the following: PDS, NSAP, DBT linked schemes such as PM-KISAN and
Jan Dhan, MGNREGA, BOCW, and PF. Such an SOP will be useful to share our learning with other CSOs and to also
advocate for a closer working relationship between government line departments and CSOs so that social protection
measures can reach the most marginalised groups and overcome unfair exclusions from these benefits.
Principal Researcher: Aaditeshwar Seth, Co-Founder, Gram Vaani Community Media
Local Governance during the COVID-19 Pandemic Times
Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA)
Kerala's response to the COVID 19 pandemic has been widely acknowledged, especially the
role played by the local self-governments (LSGs) and the frontline workers - the accredited social health
activists (ASHAs). This response and experiences offer critical lessons from the specific strategies adopted
by Kerala's LSGs which can potentially be adapted and applied in different contexts and settings elsewhere.
The Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) is a government think-tank engaged in research concerning
decentralised governance as well as in training activities for LSGs for the past three decades. KILA aims to
analyse the response strategies adopted by the LSGs in Kerala to contain the COVID 19 pandemic by comparing their
strengths and weaknesses, to identify the "good practices" adopted by the LSGs and to analyse the specific,
intersectional and gendered issues covering various health, psychological, financial and family issues of ASHA
workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic to formulate future strategies.
Principal Researcher: Joy Elamon, Director General, Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA)
Traditional Institutions (Dorbars Shnongs) of Shillong, Meghalaya: Integral to the Community Efforts against COVID19
Joy Grace Syiem | T.K. Bamon | Ksaidbok Shadap
Indian Council of Social Welfare, Meghalaya State Branch
The outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic brought on a significant toll on an already weak public health system in
Meghalaya. However, Meghalaya has managed to curtail the spread of COVID-19 through collaborative efforts of the
State Government with the traditional institutions, namely the Dorbar Shnongs. This social research study will aim
to explore the following: (a) the experience of the Dorbar Shnong in managing the Pandemic and protocols developed
at the grassroots level; (b) the gaps and challenges faced by the Dorbar Shnongs; (c) the coordination and
assistance that the Dorbar Shnongs received from the State Government and the Autonomous District Councils and
(d) the role taken on by the local women's wing and the extent of their inclusion during this period.
The geographical locations for this study will involve 6 Dorbar Shnongs in Shillong, Meghalaya. The social
survey methodology will be followed for the study, which will entail an assessment of official government policies,
orders and notifications. Interviews will be held with Government officials, members of the Dorbar Shnongs
comprising of the local headman,
the COVID Management Committee, the women's wing and the youth wing of each locality.
Principal Researcher: Joy Grace Syiem, Gender and Legal Activist
Community Health in the time of Corona
Paromita Sen | Aiman Haque | Saba Ahmed | Vaishakhi Shah
Building women’s health capabilities through a digital, group-based response: An implementation research study of Lok Swasthya SEWA Trust’s response to COVID-19
Sapna Desai | Susan Thomas
Population Council Institute
The Lok Swasthya SEWA Trust (LSST) aims to improve the health of women workers in
the informal economy through engaging SEWA's members and their families in preventive
and promotive health programs. During the lockdown, LSST pivoted interventions to
telephone-based dissemination of health information, capitalising on its vast network
of grassroots leaders and SEWA members, as well as NGO partners. Using a cascade approach,
they aimed to develop a network of local health workers and community leaders to raise awareness about
COVID-19 and access to essential health services. This implementation research study has three objectives:
Identify best practices in LSST's phone-based cascade response to COVID-19
Identify challenges and areas for improvement in disseminating information and providing phone-based support, from the perspectives of trainers and women members
Explore how phone-based mobilisation can help link women and families to services through community-based resource centres.
The study will employ a mix of participatory action methodologies and retrospective analysis of monitoring data
to examine the context, content and delivery of the intervention, along with implementation outcomes
such as feasibility, acceptability and coverage (with a focus on inclusion/exclusion).
The schedule for the Azim Premji University COVID-19 Research Funding Programme 2020 is as follows: