Kickoff Speakers 2017

We’re really fortunate to have three great speakers to introduce some of the big issues and initiatives facing India today. 

Rema Nagarajan is a Times of India reporter. She works for the Times Insight Group, which looks at stories behind the headlines. She writes mostly about policies and and decisions which determine how public services are delivered and accessed by people. Her focus is on how issues such as health, poverty, gender and rights intersect to impact people’s lives and wellbeing.

Among other honors, Rema was a 2011-12 class of Nieman Fellow at Harvard University where she studied patterns and trends in mortality, fertility and population growth and their relationship with population health, the impact of poverty, class, gender and geography on access to health care and medical ethics.”

Ishani Butalia is a research associate with Zubaan, an imprint of India’s first feminist publishing house. Ishani works with Zubaan’s Sexual Violence and Impunity (SVI) project which studies both the history and current prevalence of sexual violence in South Asia.

Ishani is interested in local movements for gender equality that don’t get attention from the national media.


Polash Mukerjee studied development economics at IIT Madras. He now works in the Clean Air and Sustainable mobility team at the Centre for Science and Environment, one of the leading environmental and policy advocacy and education organization.


A ‘Virtuous Cycle’ in Bihar?

Biologists often talk about the ways one small change in an ecosystem can lead to a series of other, unexpected changes. Sometimes the result is bad–a species goes extinct, for example. Sometimes the result is good: you may remember this cool video about what happened to rivers in Yellowstone National Park when wolves were reintroduced to the park.

Human societies are like ecosystems in many ways: when we change one thing, the results can be unpredictable. (In economics, we sometimes use the terms ‘virtuous cycles’ and ‘vicious cycles’ to describe how this works.) That’s why studying initiatives can be so fascinating: you never know where they might lead. I was reminded of this over the weekend when I read this article about a sports camp for girls in rural Bihar. It’s an interesting sports story, but what I noticed was how girls get to the sports camp–they ride bicycles that they were given to them so they could go to school. It made me wonder if this could have happened if girls didn’t have cycles. And might this be changing the way people in Bihar think about the role of girls and women in society?

Advisory Lesson Schedule

Hey eighth grade! Over the next couple of weeks, you’ll be rotating through lessons designed to get you thinking about some of the things you might want to investigate during POP. You’ll want to take a few notes during each session. If you’d like more information about a topic, you can check out the ‘Topic Resources’ tab at the top of this page. Here is the schedule:

Here is a link to the schedule.

Dangal: Girl Wrestling Comes to India

On December 23rd, Dangal released in cinema halls across India. Dangal is based on the true story of how Mahavir Singh Phogat raised his six daughters to become wrestling champions. The Phogat family lives in a village in Harayana where wrestling was strictly for boys. The movie focusses on the long road Phogat’s first daughter, Geeta, took to the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Like most films, Dangal does change the story in a few places. And some critics have argued that its women’s empowerment message doesn’t go far enough. But it is a great deal of fun to watch. And the true story of how Geeta, her father and her sisters inspired hundreds of thousands of girls to start wrestling in India is truly inspirational. You can read a little about that in this piece in First Post, which includes an excerpt from a new book on the subject. If you speak Hindi, you should definitely consider seeing this film in a theatre. And if you don’t, why not look for a copy with subtitles? If you want to know more, you might pick up a copy of the new book, Enter the Dangal.


A simple guide to the Indian Numbering System!

As we get ready to start our Population Project research, it is important to understand something about the way numbers are often written and talked about in India.

Before we start, it’s important to know that the value of the numbers don’t change. In fact, our modern base-10 numbering system, which relies on zero and is based on the idea of place value, was invented in India before it traveled to Europe through the Arab world!

But the Indian numbering system uses different landmark numbers than the International numbering system we are familiar with. This is important, because many articles you read will talk about ‘lakhs’ and ‘crores’–and you may also see commas used differently, from time to time. These are not mistakes, they are just a different way of talking about and writing big numbers. And it It is really important to have some idea about what these landmark numbers mean, when you are dealing with large numbers (as you will, when you read about money and population!)

To make matters more difficult, sometimes the one article will use both landmarks. That’s because most Indians who read and write in English are comfortable with both kinds of benchmarks. But don’t worry. This post will make it all easy. First, we’ll look at a basic chart. Then we’ll look at what this means IRL!

Below is a basic landmark translation. I’ve bolded the Indian landmarks you’ll see most often.

International System: landmark numeral International System: landmark word Indian System: landmark numeral Indian System: landmark word
1,000 thousand 1,000 thousand (same!)
100,0000 a hundred thousand 1,00,000 one lakh
1,000,000 million 10,00,000 ten lakhs
10,000,000 ten million 1,00,00,000 one crore (100 lakhs)!
1,000,000,000 one billion 1,00,00,00,000 one hundred crore or one arab (not commonly used)
1,000,000,000,000 one trillion 10,00,00,00,00,000 one lakh crore (100,000 x 10,000,000)

If you are a little confused, don’t worry. Big numbers are difficult to wrap your head around, in any mathematical system or language. That’s why landmark numbers are so important: they help us think about big numbers without exploding our brains! Seriously, that is why. If you tried to actually imagine 100,000 people, to say nothing of 1,000,000,000,000 rupees, your brain might actually blow a fuse!

The following tables with real-life examples might help you. They helped me!

Population landmarks:

Real-life landmarks (approximate) International System words Indian System words
Population of my hometown, Portland, Oregon five hundred thousand people five lakh people
Population of Oregon three million people thirty lakh people
Population of Delhi 18 million 1.8 crore
Population of the US 320 million 32 crore
Population of India 1.3 billion 130 crore


Money Landmarks (for those working on budgets, the economy or demonetization):

Real Life money landmark In rupees (International System numeral) In rupees (Indian System word) Dollar Value (at 68 Rs/dollar)
A nice computer Rs. 100,000 one lakh $1470
A used car Rs. 680,000 6.8 lakhs $ 10,0000
A nice flat in Delhi Rs. 680,000 68 lakhs $100,000
A really nice flat in Delhi Rs. 40,000,000 4 crore $588,0000
Value of money cancelled in Demonetization Rs. 15,440,000,000,000

(15.44 trillion rupees)

15.44 lakh crore $227,058,823,529

(227 billion dollars)

Just for fun! Rs. 1,000,000,000,000 1 lakh crore $14,705,882,352

14.7 billion dollars


POP2-The PSAs!

Thank you everyone for another amazing year of POP! We hope you’re proud of the work you’ve done.

For the last part of the project, students created PSAs to advocate for a specific way to keep POP alive as they move into high school.

Here is a playlist of the PSAs that the students selected as the best and most effective.

And here’s a playlist of all of the videos created.