“Schoolchildren of Valiyampura village in Talod taluka of Sabarkantha district have been skipping mid-day meal for the past few weeks, apparently because it is cooked by a Dalit woman who was appointed as a helper in the school only last month.
“The woman alleges that students of other castes have refused to eat the food prepared by her as asked by their parents. [...]
“‘The villagers do not want me to touch the vessels I clean because of my caste. After I took the charge as a helper, the students refused to eat. Today, only those students who are from my caste eat,’ Vankar said on phone.
“When contacted, principal Jayantibhai Patel, who is on leave, said the situation had improved but added that angry villagers had threatened him after Bhavnaben’s appointment and declared they would stop sending their children to the school.”
“A case of alleged caste-based discrimination at the Government Primary School at Nada village of Belthangady taluk on Thursday took a curious turn on Friday. A School Development Monitoring Committee (SDMC) member admitted to provoking parents not to let their children have mid-day meals because the person he had chosen as cook was not appointed.
“On Thursday, parents of 15 students took them away as they opposed the appointment of Sumithra, a scheduled-caste person, as a cook at the school.”
“For 11-year-old Raja, a Dalit student, mid-day meals at school can be a painful and humiliating experience. He and other Dalit children aremade to sit separately. Sometimes the food is almost thrown at his plate from a distance. Frequently, most of the food is given to upper-caste children. Raja’s parents speak of differential treatment meted out by teachers and mention that their son often feels disturbed and avoids going to school. Yet, as daily-wage agricultural labourers, they depend on the school to take care of at least one meal for Raja. Their complaints have been ignored. In fact, teachers advise students not to complain to their parents.
“Raja’s story is borne out by a survey of 122 schools across seven states, from November 2011 through March 2012, by the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS). The states include Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. As part of the survey, 1,275 parents were questioned. It threw up several notable findings. For one, Dalit children faced various forms of differential treatment. Twenty per cent of respondents said Dalit children were left hungry as they got inadequate quantities of food, certainly less than children from upper castes. Another 20 per cent said Dalit children were not allowed to serve food; 14 per cent complained of separate seating arrangements during meals. Close to 13 per cent reported Dalit children had food dropped on their plates from a distance. About 9 per cent of respondents said Dalit children had to bring plates from home so their dishes would not get mixed up with those used by upper-caste children. Around 8 per cent said upper-caste children were served first.
“Such discrimination has had clear consequences. Fifty-two per cent of parents mentioned this humiliating treatment discouraged children from going to school. Ten per cent said discrimination had affected their children’s academic performance. Nine per cent reported school had become a painful experience for their children — the unkind treatment had affected their psychological state and created tensions among students. The purpose of the mid-day meal had been to improve attendance and reduce the number of children dropping out. In these cases, the result has been the opposite.”
“Members of the Kambalathu Naicker community in Kammapatti near here prevented their 50 children from attending classes at the local panchayat union school on Tuesday protesting the posting of two Dalit women as cook and helper at the noon meal centre of the school. [...]
“‘We are not against any particular caste. We maintain cordial relationship with the Scheduled Caste people. But, it is our practice that our people, especially girls and women, do not eat food cooked by people belonging to any other community,’ said B. Sanjeevi, ward member of the Kammapatti panchayat. [...]
“District Revenue Officer, R. Raju, who holds additional charge as District Collector, said that the BDO had proposed to transfer the employees.
“‘This is a peculiar habit of this community. We cannot treat this as a practice of untouchability. Posting of people belonging to Kambalathu Naicker can be considered only when the next round of recruitment takes place,’ he said.”
“On Thursday, TOI discovered that out of total 135 students, hardly 50 students–mostly Dalits and OBC–were eating the meal that comprised daal, chapati, rice and kheer. The remaining 85 students, mostly Thakurs and Brahmins refused to eat the food or boycotted classes, a practice that started on July 1, 2010, the day the school authorities appointed two new Dalit cooks. There are two upper-caste cooks in the school as well.
“The upper-caste villagers, who were protesting against the issue, said their children would not eat food prepared by Dalit.
“Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA), Ramabai Nagar, Sanjay Shukla, who was present at Jasapur primary school on Thursday, told TOI that the matter had been sorted out and food would be prepared by upper-caste cooks only.
“However, parents were adamant on their stand. ‘Us school mein hum apne bacchon ko nahi padhayenge jahan par “achooton” se khana banwaya jata hai’ (We will not let our wards study in a school where Dalits prepare food, said a villager, Lalla Bhadauriya.”
"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."
"On Monday, the team TOI found that out of the total 62 students barely 26, mostly Dalit and Muslim were eating the meal. The remaining 36 students were found to be absent from their respective classes, in order to avoid eating the meal being prepared by a Dalit.
"The situation has worsened to such an extent that now both the Dalit and Thakur communities of the village are at loggerheads over the issue.
"'We have now learnt that parents of Dalit students have even further threatened to withdraw their wards, if any attempt to remove the Dalit cook will be made by the authorities,' said a school teacher on condition of anonymity.
"Meanwhile, the upper caste people of the village said that there is no question of sending children to school, where a woman belonging to scheduled caste has been appointed by the school authorities to cook food for their children.
"'Us school mein apne bacchon ko bhejkar hame apna hukka-paani nahi band karwana hai,' said a villager, Ram Pal Singh adding that we will not allow our children to even touch the food."
See also yet another instance of this form of bigotry:
"On Friday, The Indian Express found barely a hundred students eating the meal — tehri — rice and vegetables cooked together. The rest ate food brought from home, a practice that started on December 10, the day the Dalit woman, Phool Kumari Rawat, started cooking.
"Senior students who are boycotting the food, say Phool Kumari's cooking is unhygienic. [...]
"Younger students are more direct, readily admitting that it was Phool Kumari's caste that was the problem. 'I will not eat anything cooked by that lady. I have heard my family members say that she is from some low caste. So I bring my own lunch box,' said Shivani Singh Chauhan, a student of Class IV. Ateet Kumar, student of Class V, said the school was in a Thakur [brahmin] area and they refuse to eat whatever she cooks. 'Only children from Phool Kumari's area are eating,' he said."
"With a majority of students at the Bibipur Primary and Junior High School continuing to boycott mid-day meals cooked by Dalit woman Phool Kumari Rawat, the district administration has decided to sack her.
"Officials are now thinking of appointing another cook, using the boycotters’ argument that Phool Kumari’s cooking isn’t good and is also unhygienic. This, when most officials who have visited the school in the last five days, found nothing wrong with the meals."
Karnataka:Discrimination against cook continues (The Hindu, October 5, 2007): "The branding of Ms. Bhovi, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste, as HIV positive and the subsequent boycott by the villagers has taken a toll on her family too."