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MIT India Reading Group Meeting Details

The MIT India Reading Group is a group of students from MIT (and all over the world) interested in issues about India. We meet every two weeks at MIT to read and discuss papers and articles about the current issue of interest. Click here to find out about our next meeting.

The meeting details contain nice presentations and notes on different papers on the topics we have read and discussed so far: Elementary Education in India, Indian Innovation System and Public Health in India. It is a great resource if you are looking for information about any of these topics. Click the meeting link to find out more.

RTI Act - Right to Information Act

Meeting 72nd: 5th May, 2011, RTI: A Long Struggle Ahead, discussion, discussion with Dr. E.A.S. Sarma (Invited speaker)

Meeting 71st: 21st April, 2011, Introduction to the Right to Information (RTI) Act

Aadhar - Unique Identification Project

Meeting 70th: 7th April, 2011, Cost effective IT implementation for micropayments in financial inclusion; Lessons from other UID-like projects in other countries

Meeting 68th: 17th March, 2011, Implementation and Technical Aspects of UID Project

Meeting 67th: 24th Feb, 2011, Introduction to UID and Impact on Micropayments

Meeting 66th: 10th Feb 2011, First Meeting of Spring Session - Brainstorming about Spring Agenda

Start of Spring 2011

Urban Renewal in India

Meeting 64th: 10th July 2010, Further topics in Urbal Renewal

Meeting 62nd: 18th June 2010, Urban transportation systems in India

Meeting 61st: 10th June 2010, Urban Renewal in India - PechaKucha Part III

Meeting 60th: 2nd June 2010, Urban Renewal in India - PechaKucha Part II

Meeting 59th: 27th May 2010, Urban Renewal in India - PechaKucha Part I

Social Entrepreneurship in India

Meeting 57th: 7th May 2010, Entrepreneurship in India: Experiences of Semil Shah (Invited speaker)

Meeting 56th: 3rd April 2010, Informal Economy in Dharavi

Meeting 54th: 6th March 2010, Vocational Training and the Informal Economy

Meeting 53rd: 20th February 2010, Vocational Education in India: Need, Current Status, and Opportunities

Start of Spring 2010

Meeting 52nd: 22nd December 2009, Institutional Requirements for Microfinance; MIRG Strategy Meeting

Meeting 51st: 2nd December 2009, Talk by Rachel Glennerster, Executive Director of the MIT Poverty Action Lab (Invited speaker)

Meeting 50th: 20th November 2009, Group Dinner, What we did this semester, and next steps

Meeting 49th: 7th November 2009, Impact of Microfinance on Poverty Alleviation

Meeting 48th: 24th October 2009, Case Study - Grameen Bank

Meeting 47th: 10th October 2009, Case Study - SKS Microfinance

Meeting 46th: 24th September 2009, Microfinance 101

Meeting 45th: 12th September 2009, Social Entrepreneurship in India - Introduction and Challenges

Start of Fall 2009

Public Health in India

Meeting XLIII: 11th October 2007, National Rural Health Mission

Meeting XL: 25th August 2007, Malnutrition among children in India

Meeting XXXVIII: 2nd August 2007, Water Supply, Sanitation, and Public Health in Mumbai

Meeting XXXVII: 7th July 2007, Technological ways to make water cleaner to prevent the water-borne diseases

Meeting XXXV: 7th July 2007, Malaria

Meeting XXXIV: 23rd June 2007,Neonatal mortality reduction in a community setting; Opportunity for low-cost interventions

Meeting XXXIII: 16th June 2007, What is 'burden of disease' in India?

Meeting XXXI: 9th June 2007, Introduction to elements of public health

Talks and Some Varied Discussions

Meeting 69th: 31st March 2011, Talk by Varun Aggarwal, Equity and fairness in employment market in India (Invited speaker)

Meeting 65th: 23rd July 2010, Talk by Virender Singh, founder of Pardada Pardadi Educational Society (PPES) (Invited speaker)

Meeting 63rd: 25th June 2010, Talk by Somnath Mukherjee (AID) (Invited speaker)

Meeting 58th: 20th May 2010, Summer 2010 kickoff meeting

Meeting 55th: 27th March 2010, TED + CHAI

Meeting XLIV: 20th October 2007, Indoor air pollution and brainstroming for IDEAS competetion

Meeting XLII: 22nd September 2007, Recap of the summer discussions

Meeting XLI: 7th September 2007, MIT India Reading Group: Where we are and where do we go?, Electing new Leadership.

Start of Fall 2007

Meeting XXXIX: 9th August 2007,Offshoring to India: its past, present, and future

Meeting XXXVI: 14th July 2007, Designing innovative low-cost solutions for Montessori education in rural India. Workshop

Meeting XXXII: 12th June 2007, MIRG - AID meeting

Start of Summer 2007

Meeting XXX: 29th May 2007, Wrap up of last meeting and investigating the ground for Public Health in India

Meeting XXIX: 11th May 2007, MIT India Reading Group: Where we are and where do we go?

Meeting XXVII: 7th April 2007, Design hands-on science lessons for school children Workshop

Lessons designed in the sessions are uploaded at Open Hands-On Education Wiki

Indian Innovation System

Meeting XXVIII: 21st April 2007

Meeting XXVI: 22nd March 2007, Talk by Vidya Jonnalagadda, AID (Invited speaker)

Meeting XXV: 10th March 2007, 1. Honeybee Network, 2. Kinds of research, 3. Funding in research in India

Meeting XXIV: 24th February 2007, Role of academia in fostering Innovation

Meeting XXIII: 13th February 2007, Venture Capital Environment in India

Start of Spring Semester 2007

Meeting XXII: 28th January 2007, Moving ahead on Indian Innovation System

Meeting XXI: 20th January 2007, Can India produce billion-dollar innovations?(article)

Meeting XX: 11th January 2007, INDIAN INNOVATION SYSTEM : Perspective and Challenges

Start of 2007 Happy New Year!!

Meeting XIX: 22nd December, 730pm, Indian Innovation System

Primary Education

Meeting XVIII: 2nd December, 7pm, Quantifying the reasons for non-enrollment and drop-out AND How free is primary education in India?

Meeting XVII: 4th November, 7pm, Annual Status of Education Report 2005 : Follow-up discussions.

Meeting XVI: 28th October, 7pm, Annual Status of Education Report (Done by Pratham), 2005

Meeting XV: 14th October, 7pm, Findings of the Hole-In-the-Wall Project

Meeting XIV: 30th September, 8pm, Reflections on group progress, Ideas for projects and future readings

Meeting XIII: 22nd September, 7pm, Talk by Melli Annamalai, ASHA (NOTES ON TALK AVAILABLE HERE)(Invited speaker)

Meeting XII: 14th September, 7pm, Talk by Dr. Tom Greene, CSAIL Outreach Officer, MIT(Invited speaker)

Start of Fall Semester 2006

Meeting XI: 31st August, 7pm, Elementary Education in India: How do we get a 20 year jump

Meeting X: 21st August, 7pm, Talk by Karthik Muralidharan, PhD Student, Harvard(Invited speaker)

Meeting IX: 17th August, 7pm, Secondary Education: Overview

Meeting VIII: 10th August, 7pm, Remedying Education: Balsakhi Program and Computer Assisted Learning

Meeting VII: 31st July, 7pm, Comparing state performances with respect to Primary Education

Meeting VI: 20th July, 7pm, Survey of facilities in Schools in India

Meeting V: 11th July, 7pm, One Laptop per Child: Discussion with Prof. Walter Bender

Meeting IV: 6th July, 7pm, Poor Children in Rich Schools

Meeting III: 26th June, 7pm, Primary Educattion: Influencing Factors

Meeting II: 19th June, 7pm, Primary Education in India: Teacher Absenteeism and Dropout Rate

Meeting I: June 10, 6pm, Indian Education System: Overview and Policies

Start of Summer 2006

Aim of Group

(As discussed in first meeting)

The group discussed the aim and motive of the Reading Group. It can be summarized as follows:

  • To be *aware* about the Indian Education system and the big-picture. The awareness is the stepping-stone to bring about a change. Group members shared perspective on action in the short-term (immediate action) and the long-term.
  • *Short-term action* would comprise of working with NGOs, help them network with philanthropists, investors; provide our expertise, etc.
  • *Long term Action*: The group agreed that the members at some point in their life will be in a position to make or influence policies and this awareness will help them then. Also people wish to work on education together with their day to day work and this awareness will help them.
  • The group shall also become a converging point for *networking*: to meet like-minded people,mobilise resources and form long-lasting teams.
  • The group concurred that the meetings should have a *tangible output*. This was defined in multiple ways, tangible output was *being informed*, create a report at the end, become an organisation in ourselves.

MIT India Reading Group Reports

"ELEMENTARY EDUCATION IN INDIA: How do we get a 20 year jump?", August 2006 PDF

MIT India Reading Group Initiatives

Open Hands-On Education Wiki

This is a collection of simple lessons, targeted at middle school kids, in science and math. Most of the lessons are in the form of illustrative yet simple experiments and are written in the format: apparatus required, procedure of the experiment, observations and an explanation of the science behind the observations.

India's Energy Policy Group

This group is focusing on India’s energy policy. The way the energy study group will work is that we will send out a reading before the meeting, that everyone attending should read beforehand. The meeting will to discuss the main points of the reading and critique it. Go to the link to see individual meeting minutes.

Protocol for Reading Group

Each week, a paper/chapter is chosen. All members of the group read the paper/chapter. One member (a different person every week) reads the paper/chapter thoroughly and tracks the back references/ prepares a vision of open questions. He leads the discussion, however all members need to read the stuff before for the meeting to be a success. The first half hour will be used for analysis done by members on the content of last meeting. (experimental)


MIT India Reading Group has over 200 members, partial list of members can be found here (it has not been updated for a while) List of Members

To join, please email about-india-owner [at] mit [dot] edu

Meeting Schedule and Logistics

  • Meet every week. Weekdays evenings after 6 preferred.
  • Meeting Duration: 1.30hrs
  • All attendees are expected to read atleast half the material prescribed for the meeting.
  • There will be one (or more) leaders and one person will take notes and post it on wiki. The leader for the next meeting will be decided at the end of the last meeting.
  • As the group matures in their understanding of the topic, it will invite speakers to talk to the group and answer their questions.
  • One of the members will get some very small snack ( ;) optional)

(This has been decided as per the consensus reached by the group in the first meeting, and would be changed once the Fall semester starts.)

For the details of the next meeting as well as the previous meetings, go to Current events


This is the place to document ideas you get about solving social problems. The ideas in here are not completely fleshed and this is to document them, see the progress on them and make it a resource for all interested. PLEASE document any interesting idea you get here: Follow this link

Some ideas discussed recently.

1. BASICALLY, bring technology to solve problems

2. USE competitions as a means to facilitate change by a pull approach.

3. Need for Indian Alum Assoc.@MIT

4. Look for mechanism to solve teacher training.

For details, Follow this link


These are some factual questions about education and enabling technologies, which we want to know answers for. Feel free to update if you know any answer or have a question you want to be answered.

Follow this link

Potential Readings

  • only the readings relevant to current discussion topic can be seen on this page, for readings on topics already covered, please go to the links.*

Social Entrepreneurship

  • An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance

(Just an introduction people can read who dont know SE/MF)


Download Paper Link

  • THE CHANGING FACE OF MICROFINANCE IN INDIA (MA Thesis, Tufts, 2006, 95 pages)

(We can pick selected parts of it to read and discuss)

  • The Indian Microfinance Experience – Accomplishments and Challenges (Paper, GATECH, 22 pages, 2004)

Download Paper Link

  • Does the Microfinance Reduce Poverty in India? Propensity Score Matching based on a National level Household Data (Economics Discussion Paper, University of Manchester; 26 pages; 2006)

  • Impact of Microfinance: A Critical Survey (Economic and Political Weekly, 2007, 4 pages)

  • Microfinance and Economic Growth – Reflections on Indian Experience (book chapter by K.V. Kamath, MD&CEO ICICI Bank; 4 pages, 2008)

Download Paper Link

  • Access to Financial Assets and Economic Opportunities for the Poor: The Strengths and Constraints of Microfinance (conference paper; 11 pages, 2006)

  • Micro Finance in India and Millennium Development Goals : Maximising Impact on Poverty (Discussion paper for Workshop on World Bank, Singapore, 2006; 17 pages)

  • The Microfinance Promise (by Jonathan Morduch1, Journal of Economic Literature, 1999)

(A really good overview - though written in '99 - still a valid introduction)

  • The miracle of micro…finance? Evidence from a randomized evaluation, MIT Poverty Action Lab 2009.

Download Paper Link


  • Small change: Does microlending actually fight poverty; Boston Globe; September 20, 2009


  • Improving access to water supply and sanitation in urban India: microfinance for water and sanitation infrastructure development (Water Science & Technology, 2008; 5 pages)

  • Energy-microfinance intervention for below poverty line households in India (Energy Policy Journal, 2009; 19 pages)

Download Paper Link

Previous topics

Public Health in India

Indian Innovation System

Indian Education System

Education Development Work by NGOs and Individuals


MIT Poverty Action Lab: Various Studies on Education (


1. Tata's Computer based Functional Literacy: They use computer software which lays stress on words than letters, use multimedia, sound and puppets as motifs to teach. They claim to be able to teach an illiterate person how to read in 40hrs spread over a few weeks.

2. OLPC, One Laptop Per child: Further details later

3. A couple of years ago, Anjali Mahendra was involved with a student group at MIT called ‘Setu’. The group was geared towards improving technology education for underserved schools and communities in India. The model was to set up computer centers in rural areas (the pilot was in two villages in Bihar and Karnataka) such that they would be used for children during school hours and by the rest of the community after school hours. The project had received the Microsoft I-campus grant for setting up the pilot. Some people in the team were working on the curriculum and content that would be put on the computers in the computer centers. Unfortunately, after some of the founders graduated, the Setu group at MIT seems to have dissolved.

We have written to one of the founder members of the group, and await further details.

4. An organization, PlanetRead (, works in Mumbai and Pondicherry has developed a “Same-Language Subtitling” (SLS) methodology, which provides automatic reading practice to individuals who are excluded from the traditional educational system, or whose literacy needs are otherwise not being met. This is an educational program rooted in mass media that demonstrates how a specific literacy intervention can yield outstanding, measurable results, while complementing other formal and non-formal learning initiatives of the government, private sector, and civil society. An assessment of this methodology was published in 2005 at the following link:

Berkeley India Reading Group (NEW)

Berkeley India Reading Group [1] was started by Rohit Ambekar (PhD Student, UC Berkeley) and had its first meeting on 25th February 2007. It was inspired by the MIT India Reading Group model and adapted for University of California - Berkeley. We thank Rohit Karnik for putting MIRG in touch with the Berkeley folks leading to the establishment of BIRG.

BIRG is currently doing an academic study of caste reservations in the Indian Education System. Please refer to there meeting minutes here [2].

BIRG sets an inspiring precedence to replicate the India Reading Group and spread the spirit of academic study of pressing issues. To start your own IRG, see [3]

Notes of Berkeley India Reading Group [4]

An *INDIA READING GROUP* at your place (NEW)

Do you think the discussions here are relevant? Would you like to do similar meetings at your university or workplace? If yes, it is very easy. Here are some tips on how to go about it.

UC-Berkeley has set an laudable precendence by setting BIRG: Berkeley India Reading Group [5].

(The idea of replicating the India Reading Group at other places was first proposed by Anna Agarwal in 2006.)

NGOs/SE visiting Boston/Cambridge area (NEW)

If you are a representative from an NGO/Social Enterprise working in education, employment, health , microfinance or other developmental initiative in one of the developing nations and visiting Boston/Cambridge area, we will be happy to hear from you. If the nature of work of your organization and work matches with that of the interest of the group, it will be our pleasure to invite you to MIT to talk and let us know more about your organization and its work. Kindly mail us at about-india-owner [at] Please note that due to resource limitations, we are able to entertain only a few requests. Our sincere apologies for the same.

Other Topics considered

Follow link for details

1. Energy in India

2. Indian Political System

3. Infrastructure and the Environment in India

4. Empowerment of Women in Rural India

About the group and contact


Anna Agarwal, Coordinator, annaag [at]

Aruna Ranganathan, Outreach Efforts

Gurneet Kaur, Campus Meetings

Ankit Jain, Campus Meetings

Shreerang Chhatre, Meeting Minutes

positions open, please contact annaag [at] if interested to join the leadership team

(Past Coordinators: Varun Aggarwal (founder), Rohit Karnik)

(Past Webmaster: Anna Agarwal, Mythili Vutukuru)

Group Mailing-list: about-india [at] (To Join EMail: about-india-owner [at] )

1. About the group

2. June'06-May-07 Activity Report

3. Previous Coordinators and Webmasters

4. Presentations about the group at events