India has a history of segregation based on socioeconomic status, religion and caste. Despite significant progress nearly 70% of India’s population lives on less than $2 a day. Poor people are often blamed for many miseries. As per the 2011 Census, the country is home to more than 172 million Muslims or 14.2% of India’s population. Scheduled Caste (scheduled tribes, Dalits, and other backward class) communities exist across India and comprised 70% of the country's population. Although representing the large majority of the Indian population, these groups generally are under-represented in economic, social and political spheres. They often feel less safe, both socially and economically, than the rest of the population in times of crisis. Feeling unsafe can have negative impacts at both the social and the individual level, by further deteriorating social cohesion, resulting in poorer physical or mental health and well-being. Furthermore, certain minority groups (such as Dalits- the lowest caste group, and Muslims) are much more likely to experience discrimination. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, fear and misinformation about the virus may disproportionately impact the sense of personal and community safety of some groups. In fact, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been numerous media reports of an increase in anti-Muslim discriminatory behaviours in India.
This project aims to examine if targeted intervention via awareness campaigns and provision of accurate information about: (a) infection transmission and prevention mechanisms; and (b) the distribution of infection rates relative to the distribution of stigmatized groups across states can improve knowledge about Covid-19 and prevention mechanisms, increase the practice of physical distancing, reduce stigmatization and discrimination, and improve health outcomes. The findings from this project will shed light on policy responses that are useful for countering stigma and misinformation that aggravate the spread of disease and negative health outcomes as well as reducing discrimination and the associated adverse effects that vulnerable individuals suffer.