Orissa villagers stop mid-day meal cooked by Dalit women

Last Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 18:26

Kendrapara: The mid-day meal (MDM)
in a government primary school in Orissa`s Kendrapara district
was stopped with a section of villagers registering their
protest allegedly against the meal being cooked by women of a
particular caste.

MDM was stopped at Sidha Marichani primary school at
Sanamarichapalli village in Rajnagar tehsil yesterday. Some
members of the Village Education Committee (VEC) made their
way to the school kitchen and forced the cooks to stop cooking
the noon meal, official sources said today.

Two Dalit cooks were reportedly locked up inside the
kitchen for over an hour before the school headmaster rescued
them, they said.

Meanwhile, Maa Ambika women self-help group, running
MDM in the school expressed unwillingness to shoulder noon
meal responsibility. A complaint has been lodged in this
regard by the SHG before the Rajnagar block officials.

The group alleged that they were being ill-treated
because of their caste background.

The village has a population of about 700 people of
which nearly one-third are Scheduled Castes.

"Upper caste parents insist that some of the cooks
should be removed. But we cannot change the equation as it`s
the decision of higher authorities to deploy them for
cooking," said school headmaster, Rabindra Nayak.

It is pertinent to note here that the School and Mass
Education Department was earlier accused of shutting the
"Kitchen" doors for Dalit women on the ground that upper caste
children may skip the mid-day meals.

The government agencies monitoring the scheme in the
district had allegedly stopped recruiting Dalits as cooks, a
senior district official said.

The retrenchment drive of Dalit cooks had triggered a
furore with the National Human Rights Commission last year
directing the administration to stop the caste-bound
practice, he said.

The Women and Child Welfare Department, through a
notification, had ordered that the enrolment of MDM cooks in
primary schools should show preference towards women from
Scheduled Caste and Tribe communities.

Priority should be accorded to widows and destitute
women from lower castes, it suggested.

PTI




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