Orissa villagers stop mid-day meal cooked by Dalit women
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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.


First Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010, 18:26

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