Mid-day meal programme sparks caste row (Kalinga Times)
"In the latest caste-bound conflict, the noon meal was yesterday stopped in a government-run primary school in a remote village under Rajnagar tehsil[, West Bengal] with a section of villagers registering their protest against cooking of mid-day meals by scheduled caste women.
"The meal was stopped yesterday at Sidha Marichani Primary School in Sanamarichapalli village. A section of Village education committee (VEC) members made their way to school kitchen and forced the Dalits cooks to stop the noon meal. Their argument was that Dalits have no right to cook in the school that accommodates the upper caste children.
Two Dalits cooks were locked up inside the kitchen for over an hour before the school head master rescued them. [...]
"The village has a population of about 700 people of which nearly one-third are from lower caste origin.
"As one passes through the backward village with rows of mud-walled and thatched houses, deceptive calm pervades the air. The demographic graph of the village is heavily tilted towards the upper caste. The upper castes, mostly landowners, are economically better off than the Dalits. [...]
"It's 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 the Dalits as cooks.
"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 and arbitrary practice."
See anti-caste: UPPER-CASTE PARENTS WON'T SEND CHILDREN TO SCHOOL WHERE UNTOUCHABLE WOMAN COOKS LUNCHES (July 27, 2009) and MAYAWATI'S GOVERNMENT UPHOLDS FIRING OF UNTOUCHABLE OVER CASTE-BASED TABOO (February 27, 2008) and 300 SCHOOLCHILDREN BOYCOTT "UNCLEAN" LUNCHES (December 15, 2007).