Ashwin Parulkar ’09 MAIR Addresses Indian Inequality Through Work At Centre for Equity Studies

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Ashwin Parulkar is a Senior Research Officer at the Centre for Equity Studies. He earned his MAIR from Maxwell in 2009, and also holds a MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and a BS in Management from Case Western Reserve University. Hailing from East Liverpool, OH, Ashwin now lives in New Delhi, India.

ashwinThe Centre for Equity Studies is engaged in research and advocacy on a range of social and economic justice issues in India. The organization examines the nature and causes of social injustice, inequity, and exclusion that befall the poorest sections of India, with a particular focus on hunger, religious and communal conflict, and the plight of street children and the homeless.

In his work, Ashwin researches aspects of hunger and the right to food in India. In the past, this has included investigations of government responses to reported starvation deaths in India’s hardest hit rural districts, and research into the dimensions of destitution that some of the India’s poorest communities, such as bonded laborers and beggars, face. This year, Ashwin will be conducting a year-long research project on homelessness in Delhi. As he explains, “In 2010, the Supreme Court of India issued orders directing each of India’s metropolitan cities to construct shelters and provide basic services for the numerous poor people that did not have shelter. I will be spending time with the homeless and outreach workers — including health and social workers, shelter administrators, and local officials — to better understand who, exactly, the homeless are and what challenges they face in accessing basic services and social and economic rights, as well what barriers they face in possibly getting off the streets for good.”

Ashwin is also co-authoring a book on inequality in India, which is a compilation of stories of people battling destitution that arise from his and other colleagues’ experiences in the field.   In the next year, he will also co-author a book on India’s push to legislate the right to food, and is in conversation with several other countries who are also attempting to combat food insecurity through law. He will be meeting with experts from twelve countries to better understand their particular country contexts, challenges, and progress made on ensuring poor people a legal right to food vis a vis their own national framework laws and policies.

When thinking about what a “typical day” looks like in his job, Ashwin explains there are two distinct types: “If I am on a field project, my day involves spending time in the communities that I am researching. This involves interviewing local community members, public officials, NGO workers, and journalists. The other ‘typical’ day is when I am back in Delhi, which involves compiling the data, doing further secondary research which involves more reading and reaching out to policymakers and other researchers, and writing.” During his time at Maxwell, Ashwin got his first introduction to conducting field research with international human rights NGOs, UNICEF and ActionAid, during his 6-month internship through the MAIR program, allowing him to put classroom learning into practice.

When asked to name is his favorite class, Ashwin quickly identified History of International Relations as the most memorable class he took at Maxwell. He explains, “Professor Bennett’s range was wide and deep. In the first half of the semester, we read (intensely!) a combination of theory and history from writers as diverse as Vladimir Lenin to Hans Morgenthau. The second half of the class was run as a mock symposium where a group of students were assigned the task of leading the discussion from a range of current readings that dealt with subjects ranging from national security, climate change, and the impact of economic liberalization on global poverty. This component helped me a great deal because it prepared me well for tasks in my current job, such as gleaning information from a range of data, readings, and opinions, to produce substantive knowledge that may hopefully accurately address the gaps in current social policies, or the need for new ones.”

His advice for current students? “Take as many challenging courses as you can and stretch yourself in the internship component.”

Ashwin can be contacted at ashwin.parulkar@gmail.com or LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60950802&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile?

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