Over 60 students of a government primary school in Madhya Pradesh, 16 of them from the Scheduled Caste category, have been skipping their mid-day meal cooked by a Dalit woman for the last few months.
The shocking issue came to light after the school's headmaster Ramgopal Gupta shot off a letter to the CEO of local body at Jatara (tehsil place) in Tikamgargh district. Gupta said he had written to superiors about the issue in the past as well but there had been no follow-up action.
The primary school is situated at Madkheda village, 19 km off the district headquarters. Among the children who have refused to take meal are 16 belonging to a community under the SC category, on the ground that the cook belonged to a different Dalit community.
The headmaster's letter mentioned that a student who is not taking the meal said that his parents had asked him not to eat the food prepared by the Dalit woman. Others too echoed the same reason, says the letter.
"Sixty-seven students, including 16 students of SC category, are not eating the mid-day meal. They aren't taking the food as it is cooked by a Dalit woman," Gupta told PTI today.
The contract for providing the meal was bagged by a self-help group of the Dalit woman (of which she is the president). As many as 89 students used to take meal for three months when the food was prepared by a woman of an OBC community, engaged by the self-help group.
But later,the self-help group president herself started cooking food after she had problem with the cook she initially engaged. That is when the problem started, mentions the letter. "I have taken a serious view of the development. I am going to take tough action in this case," CEO of the panchayat said.
Jatara Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Aditya Singh said that he hasn't received a complaint of discrimination yet. There is a need to educate the students, he added.
Feature Image Source: Reuters