Casteism is the biggest impediment to success of Swachh Bharat Mission, say scholars Dean Spears, Diane Coffey. First Post, August 13, 2017.
Why are children in India shorter than children from other countries even those poorer than India? It was the urge to solve some of India’s development puzzles like this one that drew American scholars Dean Spears and Diane Coffey to India in 2009.
The couple co-founded the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE) in 2011 and settled in Sitapur, a rural district in central Uttar Pradesh, four years ago. With a population of 4.5 million people, it is the size of Sierra Leone and Liberia and has a similar infant mortality rate.
“Sierra Leone and Liberia have a health ministry, education ministry, a Unicef mission; Sitapur has none of that. So it made a lot of sense to go somewhere like that and add value,” Spears stated in an earlier interview.
Spears and Coffey have a masters in public administration and completed their PhDs at the Princeton University. Spears specialised in economics and public affairs and Coffey in demography. The two met and fell in love when Spears was a teaching assistant in a statistics class where Coffey was a student. They got married in 2011.
Their research in India has established links between open defecation and high infant mortality in rural India. It has also exposed the caste prejudices that encourage open defecation. A surprising fact showed up in their study: many people in rural areas, especially in north India, choose to defecate in the open even if they have a toilet at home. Many reasoned that it was a more ‘pleasant, comfortable and convenient’ option.Their new book, Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development, and the Costs of Caste throws up many such insights that sanitation experts and administrators would never openly admit to.
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