Casteism is the biggest impediment to success of Swachh Bharat Mission, say scholars Dean Spears, Diane Coffey

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. spears

“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.

Read the complete article.

One response to “Casteism is the biggest impediment to success of Swachh Bharat Mission, say scholars Dean Spears, Diane Coffey

  1. Barry M Jackson

    I have read about the authors’ findings before and each time I seethe with frustration because the problems are portrayed as so intractable: “it is in our culture and nothing can be done” or “that’s the way it is”. If I was Prime Minister Modi I would call in all the nation’s influential religious leaders and read the riot act to them: “Look how our religious and cultural mind-set is holding up progress. Go and update your theology so we can preach sanitation, hygiene and cleanliness to all our people. Get out there and support the Government’s Swacch Bharat Mission!” Is it too much to ask that everyone with influence should join together and address the single biggest impediment to public health in India? The Government of India has committed the funds but there is so much indifference to cleaning up India. Of course, this is not just about building toilets but it is more about behavior change – hence the need to have a national united social movement. We must not rest until the next generation will find it unthinkable to defecate in the open and have no way of washing one hands afterwards. Barry Jackson, former Manager: Global Sanitation Fund (retired).

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