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In The Field

Author: InTheFieldIndia

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‘In The Field’ is a show that attempts to capture India’s development story, as it happens, through a feature-style podcast that combines interviews, commentary, and debate.
26 Episodes
Kerala’s economy relies heavily on things that are native and unique to it - its natural resources, its traditions and heritage. In this episode we look at efforts to build resilience into the livelihoods of the people of Kerala and at some of its prominent traditional sectors. In their rebuilding, lies Kerala's future. The Kaalavastha miniseries is brought to you by the World Bank. Thanks to Jose Dominic, Gopi Parayil, Sreejith Jeevan, Lakshmi Menon and P. Robin. Additional sounds used are under a CC attribution: Weaving mills and factories » Bhagalpur, silk weaving handlloom.wav by phonoflora Kerala-4.wav by xserra.
As Kerala today thinks about how to reduce its reliance on remittances, and on how to revive the economy after the COVID-19 crisis, agriculture is one place where many say there is huge potential. But reorienting this is no easy task. Thanks to Mr DK Singh, Suma Vishnudas, Viju B and Vinayak Ghatate. The Kaalavastha miniseries is brought to you by the World Bank. Additional sounds: “Climate change in Wayanad, Kerala: ‘Farming only makes sense if it is a hobby” by People’s Archive of Rural India (CC license), Attributions under (Frogmouth.wav - shyamal), and Cheruvayil Raman audio from Thanima 2 / NITC 2017.
In Kerala resilience has been a part of the conversation for quite a while before it became the word we all seem to be talking about. So, given its head start, what is Kerala doing to keep the well from going dry? In this episode, we explore how new efforts to build Kerala’s resilience are focussing on it’s two most important resources, rivers and remittances. Thanks to Anil Das, Dilip Ratha, Thomas Mathew , VD Satheesan and Dr V Venu. Kaalavastha is brought to you by the World Bank.
The 2018 floods were called once in a century floods - because in people’s memory, there was only flood before it that had marked so many lives, the flood of 1924. But when the state flooded again in 2019, many asked, why this was happening again? Why was the once in a lifetime flood back with a vengeance in less than a year? In this episode we find out about a contentious topic that may have increased the scale of the disaster: Kerala’s relationship with land. Thanks to Sreeranganathan, Professor Srikumar Chattopadhyay, Sobha Viswanath and Viju B. Additional sound from are attributable under Creative Commons Attribution Licences: HEAVY_SMASH_001.wav, QUICK_SMASH_002.wav, QUICK_SMASH_001.wav, GRUNT_002.wav by JoelAudio and Waves in small rocky cavern.flac by Phistomefel. The Kaalavastha miniseries is brought to you by the World Bank.
Kerala has been marked by devastating floods in 2018 and 2019. But the state has been experiencing the effects of climate change for much longer. Scientists talk about 2015 as a sort of turning point. In this episode, we explore where and how people began noticing the changes. Thanks to Professor Abhilash, Harichandan Arakali, Sreedevi Pillai, Sobha Viswanath and Viju B. Additional music licensed from under Creative Commons Attribution License: "Rain, Moderate, C.wav" by InspectorJ (, “Waterfall” Straget, “Drizzle” by Soundatic. The Kaalavastha miniseries is brought to you by the World Bank.
Kaalavastha - trailer

Kaalavastha - trailer


Welcome to Kaalavastha. A word which conjures so many things in Malayalam: clouds, climate, the weather. In this 6 part series, we dive deep into God’s Own Country, past romantic ideas about rivers and mountains and the rain to find out what kind of relationship Kerala’s people have with their environment? And what will have to change as they learn about their vulnerability? What new kinds of local action are evolving? And how are Kerala’s communities planning for their future? We travel through the state to meet communities, government, and the diaspora, as Kerala redefines its development model to create a new legacy. The Kaalavastha miniseries is brought to you by the World Bank.
Announcing a new series on In the Field. The story of a state, the story of the weather, and the story of a people, chronicled over six episodes. Kaalavastha drops later this week on this feed. Subscribe now to In the Field if you haven’t already!
ITF is back! In this mid-series episode we want to talk about how non-profits are dealing with the pandemic and we ask a few of our friends and colleagues about what they’ve been experiencing. Right now we have more questions than answers, but here are a few things we want to share. We also want to hear from you, our listeners, about how you have been about the processes by which you are making decisions now, and participating in this moment - do you feel like your voice is being represented? Do you want a new way to be heard? How are you making plans, how are you sharing resources, and most of all, we want to hear your observations about whose voices are being counted and who is being left out?
The past decade has seen a proliferation of movements all over the world. Fighting for everything from racial equality, to end authoritarianism and corruption, for struggling farmers, for climate action, for net neutrality and to end sexual harassment. At the very heart of societal change very often, lies the NGO, that works alongside these movements, with the government, for the citizens, and thanks to funders. It’s these NGOs, that engage with the state, help deliver services, or make people more aware and empowered. But the NGO is constantly evolving , and more people take to the street to protest, where does this leave the NGOs? And when we talk about civil society, are we leaving anyone out? Thanks to Harsh Mander, Ingrid Srinath, Rajni Bakshi, Dr Ranjana Kumari, Obalesh Bheemappa and our friend Tejas Pande. In the Field is supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies. Reach out to us at
In part two of our two parter on sustainability, climate change and consumption, we’re going find out about our relationship to the things we love - Like fish, coffee, travelling. These are things that are frequently talked about in relation to high consumption lifestyles, the kind that make climate change worse. We all know that sustainable producers needs ethical consumers. Going beyond the label, how are organisations in the sector contending with issues such as livelihoods of small scale producers, value chains and their inclusion in global markets, environmental and biodiversity sustainability, and most importantly the changing power structures needed in the marriage between producers and consumers. Basically, what does it take to make the marriage work? Featuring Chef Thomas Zacharias, Arshiya Bose from Black Baza Coffee, Dr John Kurien, Ganesh Nakhwa and Sumesh Mangalaserry. In the Field is supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies.
In this special two-parter we’re talking about sustainability and consumption. And we’re starting with a story about fish, to understand how the twin forces, climate change and our ravaging consumption, are depleting the oceans. This is a story about a system of production that is in desperate need of rescue. At the heart of it are the fish themselves, but also the fisherworkers, a group that seems just as endangered. Stay tuned for the second episode of this two parter next week! Thanks to Divya Karnad, Ganesh Nakhwa, John Kurien and Srini Swaminathan. Sounds: Sound Producer is Santhos Nataraja. Theme song by Hollis Coats. This episode was mixed and recorded at Third Eye Studios. Show and art design by Bhushanraj. In the Field is supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies.
Worklife in India has many elements to it, and we see the whole gamut of experiences in India from workers working with little or no welfare to more privileged workers, and increasingly all of us are working more and for longer. How do we get to a point where we can experience the best possible version of worklife, where the worker has more power in deciding how to distribute time, rather than becoming a part of a system where work happens all the time? Thanks to Apoorva Verma, Amrita Sharma, Hansika Singh, Kiran, Krishnavtar Sharma ji, Nishi Palnitkar, Priyanka Nair, Prottoy Aman Akbar, Rahul Srivastava, Reetika Revathy Subramanian, Ryan Bennett, Sanjay Patel and Shaheen Shasa. In the Field is supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies. Reach out to us at
Welcome to this very special bonus episode of In the Field. Stay tuned for our next In the Field episode, coming very soon. This episode is brought to you by Indus Action (, an organization working on a very specific tenet of the Right to Education Act - they’re trying to improve the way affirmative action is implemented in India’s private schools. We make In the Field to to introduce you to the people trying to solve hard social problems, to their ideas and practices, and to the conversations that sometimes get stuck inside the social sector’s conference rooms. But some topics are better presented by the people who work on them. And this is why in series two, In the Field will feature bonus episodes that talk about specific themes in development, featuring the work of specific organizations and the issues they are driven by. We hope these bonus episodes will give listeners a way to learn about the most exciting, impactful work being done by committed organizations. This episode is sponsored by Indus Action. For more information about their work on rights based issues in India and opportunities for engagement write to
Development work is full of models. And a famous one originated in Kerala - it was so famous it defined the state’s identity in so many ways; it was credited for producing a literate, educated population, for empowering women and an engaged, active public. But this is a stubborn old story, and one we’ll attempt to update. In this episode we trace back the history of Kerala’s development, find out how it got its world renowned reputation, and why it’s a land of mesmerising contradictions. In 2018, floods devastated Kerala, but it allowed the development model to become a question for debate once again. A new Kerala is emerging from the legacy of its development history and its changing cultural and social landscape. And as messy as it looks right now, we think Kerala is still showing us the way. Credits: Thanks to Bala Menon, Bharati Menon, Dr J Devika, Devika Radhakrishnan, Daneesh, Dhanya, Josy Joseph, Mujib, Raghav Sharma, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Sumesh Mangalasseri, Varun Menon, Dr V Venu, Vidya Varma, Yamini and Gayatri Vijayan and all the folks who are a part of Resilient Kerala. In the Field is a Vakku production. This episode is hosted and Produced by Radhika Viswanathan and Samyuktha Varma. Our Sound Producer is Santhos Nataraja. Soundscaping and sound design by Erwick d’Souza. Our theme song is by Hollis Coats. Show and art design by Bhushanraj. This episode was mixed and recorded at Third Eye Studios. Check out our show notes, transcripts and more information on or reach out to us on social media. We’re @inthefieldindia. In the Field is supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies
The youth are a prized population, for they represent the much talked about demographic dividend and so countries are supposed to nurture and help them develop. However, most approaches are instrumentalist, and see young people as mediums for prosperity. Or as a problem that needs a solution - through jobs, skills, education and even through settling down. But it skirts around the hard questions of young India’s identity. How do the youth see themselves in society? And what are their individual hopes and dreams? In contrast to childhood, the long coming of age years is less about protecting innocence, wonder and imagination and more about the hard knocks of figuring out a path. Stopping and starting, disillusionment, and loss are often part of that journey. In this episode, we take a look at what it’s like to be young, and what it is to grow up. Because you never fully get over the loss of what you give up in your youth. The feeling of remorse, being haunted by what you didn’t do, couldn’t do. The choices you didn’t make and the paths you couldn’t take? What is the preventative of that disease? Being able to peacefully reconcile those choices and being able to accept yourself and those around your for the choices you made - that is what growing up is.
In development work, there are some spaces that need big ideas and radical new thinking, and there are others that require a different form of engagement - a slower, more steady, enabling presence. In these spaces, it’s about fixing something by actually just getting it to work - but that’s no small task. Access to Justice is one of the harder spaces to fund and work in. From a development sector perspective, it seems ‘unfundable’, because it is hard to activate solutions for. The justice system might seem removed from our everyday lives, so what is our role in trying to make it better? In this episode, we take a look at two issues that mark its functioning: an apathetic system of legal aid and societal prejudice. We have system of legal aid meant to help support the poorest and most disadvantaged in our country, but it is broken. And one of the consequences of this is a large number of undertrials but very few of them seem to be availing of legal aid to work their cases. It represents the scale of routine negligence and apathy. For every one case that is addressed properly through the legal aid system, there are probably a hundred, or even a thousand more that do not seem to get the assistance they need. In contrast, the worst cases of legal access being denied are the ones that we hear about often in the news because of the depravity of the crime, although they are a still a fraction of the crimes that should be reported. And many similar crimes may not even reach the legal system - because of societal prejudice. The organisations we spoke to oil the gears to make the machine work better, and their work ranges from training lawyers to improve the quality of the service they provide, to working to make policy more responsive, to ensuring that there is monitoring and accountability built into the overall system. And so, working with the justice system is about working with many structured pieces. It’s about improving legal awareness (the kind of education that makes us participate better) and educating every citizen about their fundamental rights. At ‘In the Field’, we think a lot about our privilege, and what it really means. How well, for example, do we know about our local government arms and agencies, and that we probably know even less about the police and the courts. In school, we learn about fundamental rights, and directive principles of state policy, in 10th standard civics we learn about writs and then memorize a bunch of latin words. But how well do we know what they mean and how they translate down to the daily workings of our institutions? This is something we within our power to change. Here are two interesting reports that you may like to read: Tipping the Scales by Dasra and A Study of Pretrial detention in India by Amnesty International.
Do we know where our food comes from? Does it come from down the road, or from a continent away? And do we really care? It’s all the same to us. Agriculture, especially food production is a topic deeply rooted in development. It’s too important to not pay attention to but it’s hard to know where to begin understanding it. And we know this because conversations about food can get uncomfortable sometimes, especially while there are farmer protests taking place, when we realise our cities are inundated with garbage and detritus, much of which comes from packaged food. And we're still fighting problems like malnutrition. That said, India's food production story has been an accomplishment. India moved from battling famine and high import prices to achieving food self sufficiency in a matter of a few decades. Yet, we now recognise what the long terms effects of rampant water use and intensive cultivation has done to our land and we also know who it left behind or didn't reach. While we are disconnected from those who grow our food, their lives and the rural economy, today, we're at a cusp of change and the question is how quickly are we going to get on board? We have the ability to shape our food future, to pay attention to the systems that bring us our food and close the gap between farmers, producers and consumers. And so to make sense of the questions like why do we grow what we grow and how we grow, and to understand what sustainable food production could look like in the future we decided to go local. In this episode we meet our local resident water expert, our local ag-policy wonk, our local journalist who writes about Karnataka’s countrysides, and our local organic shop owner.
A recent preoccupation within the development sector is the falling female workforce participation in India. More pronounced in rural India than in urban India, nevertheless a concern given that our country has made significant strides in education and economic growth as a whole. The story of women and work in India is complex. It's connected to all of the big things: structural issues, patriarchy, and cultural values. In development, we're constantly trying to find ways to bring women into the economic sphere, as it is the most effective way to help empower. Yet, our approaches are often reined in by what we can design with limited evidence, by what we can measure, and by what we can sustain. In Episode 7, we speak to an anthropologist, a lawyer, a development and human rights activist and campaigner, an economist and an archivist, and finally we meet an inspiring, independent, working woman and her son. We speak to all of them to understand what happens to aspirations, how women navigate life and opportunity, and how very few get to choose. And so this episode is about what we’re missing out in our attempts to make all women triumph
The Indian environmental movement has had a long and fascinating history. While young India’s charismatic leaders were instrumental in instituting laws to protect nature and wildlife, powerful social movements fought to bring to light the important connection between development, the environment, and vulnerable people. Environmental justice in the Indian context has arisen from these movements and we now have laws and regulation that are intended to protect people and compensate them for what they stand to lose. Today we see environmental awareness growing in urban India. The middle classes have agency like never before - suddenly conscious of fragile urban landscapes, they are demanding and coming together for better solid waste management, to clean up roads anonymously and beautifying urban landscapes, launch huge beach cleaning initiatives, and taking to the streets to reject large flyovers. Society is starting to move in, fight for and take matters into its own hands. On the flip side, the poor, vulnerable, and marginalised are also being impacted directly by the poor state of the environment. Justice, in the context of environmental issues is meant to be a leveller. And the extent to which Indian law has expanded these past 70 years, to address environmental justice is admirable. The purview of the law is vast and empowering, when harnessed and leveraged correctly. In this episode of In the Field, we examine how urban environmentalism can dominate ideas of what kind of planet we want for ourselves, what kind of nature we want to protect, conserve, and how we are going about doing it? While we believe we're fighting a fight for the greater common good, how are we ignoring or forgetting the fight for environmental justice that is about the specific issues faced by the vulnerable? And how do we make a connection between the fight for the greater common good and the fight for justice?
In a thriving, vibrant, and diverse democracy like India, what does it mean to participate? We tend to see participation in a democracy as an act that happens every five years, but there are many spaces for a more continuous and enduring engagement. So, how do people participate, and what hinders effective participation? How do we level the playing field, so that everyone can participate in, engage with, and contribute to India’s democracy? In this episode, we take a look this essential aspect of development, that’s integral to almost every kind of intervention designed to affect social change. We meet with people who are working hard to join the dots that make participation happen: by building political movements that enable citizens to have meaningful interactions with their elected officials; bringing the state one step closer to the people; empowering people to access what is rightfully theirs, like welfare benefits and subsidies; and creating data that empowers people to take control of decision-making in their own communities. The challenges faced by the poor in India stem from inequalities that are social, economic, political, geographic and gendered in nature. True development is freedom - it creates equality, equity, and control over one’s life and choices. And being able to participate in the polity is an important form of freedom. We also explore the other side of the coin - the relationship between the citizen and the state is almost like a dance, and in order for the state to function people need to be at the centre, building it, making it better, and engaging with it. But we also need an empathetic state, that moves, changes and reaches out. What we learned is that when the state does reach out, more often than not, people are ready to come forward. Coincidentally, this episode releases a few days after Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary and so we take the opportunity to remind us of a few of his words.
Comments (2)

Srinivas Sreedharan

Oh! You want to hear from us. We wanted to hear from you for such a long time but you guys went puft!!! Vanished for almost year without any sign of any return. Left us hanging of not knowing if there would be any return. When my notification popped with your logo I was taken aback and was confused if it was really IFT being back to the field. Made me happy but same time angry so that I could give a piece of my mind. You can't just leave without saying anything. Glad your back 😀🤘😀

Jun 4th

Anubhav kumar

You are doing a great job!

Apr 7th
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