Most recently, my ongoing PhD research is addressing the complexities emerging through the interaction between the current development discourse in India, conservation movements spearheaded by ‘Project Tiger’ and a hunting-gathering nomadic ‘ex-criminal’ tribe called the ‘Pardhi-Baheliya’ in Central India. This tribe is losing access to their spatial niche owing to conservation-induced intervention and therefore grappling with extreme deprivation and ostracism by mainstream society.
My research intends to highlight paradoxes surrounding development by tracing their experiences, while also placing in perspective political, economic and environmental concerns. The unsuccessful initiatives to achieve wildlife conservation by providing alternative livelihood options to the tribe also serve as a fertile ground for exploring issues of ‘sustainable livelihoods’ and their potential repercussions on the tribe's contemporary experience, particularly with regards to criminality and nomadism. The fieldwork involves interacting with numerous stakeholders, collecting several varieties of data, and working in close proximity with the tribe, thereby exposing me to daily developmental challenges faced in the region dominated by protected forests.
On finishing my PhD, I aim to share my findings with WWF and relevant Government of India departments, while actively partnering with them to strive for an equitable balance between tribal welfare and conservation aims. Furthermore, I wish to move beyond national boundaries and continue to make positive contributions with regards to issues of subsistence, poverty, resource use and governance.
I am determined to continue working towards tackling problems of sustainable development by complementing rigorous academic research with solution-oriented approaches in the policy realm.
In August 2012, Rishabh (seated, left) was awarded the Albert Gallatin Fellowship in International Affairs and named Research Fellow at the Program in Agrarian Studies while being affiliated to the Department of Political Science at Yale University. In April 2013, he was selected as a Visiting Study Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), University of Oxford, to carry out research on intersections between forced migration, environmental conservation and sustainable development, for which he was awarded the Sally Hogg grant. He is currently in the final stages of his PhD in Development Studies from The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva that is addressing developmental and environmental issues in India through a research with nomadic communities. [Updated December 2013] Rishabh is currently working at the International Labour Organization as a Technical Officer within the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch. He is part of a team that focuses on issues faced by indigenous and tribal peoples, particularly in the context of ILO Convention No. 169, a legally binding international instrument that deals specifically with their rights. A key aspect of his work at the ILO entails engaging with legal and policy frameworks with regard to indigenous and tribal peoples’ access to employment and livelihoods. Rishabh's PhD thesis is titled "Criminality, Development And The Pursuit Of Socio-Economic Mobility: The Pardhis In Contemporary India." [Updated April 2015]