Friday, October 31, 2003

Dalit cooks for mid-day meals - Aiding the process of socialisation

Mid-day meals contribute to socialisation, in a caste and class-ridden society. It has been noted that the experience of sharing a common meal helps erode caste prejudices and class inequities.

The survey found little evidence to suggest that caste discrimination was prevalent in the context of mid-day meals. It found no cases of separate sitting arrangements, or of preferential treatment being given to upper-caste children.

Most parents too welcomed the arrangement. Teachers confirmed that parents rarely objected to their children sharing meals with children from other castes. And, among disadvantaged castes, very few parents felt that their children had ever experienced caste discrimination in the context of the mid-day meal.

The survey found that there does seem to be upper-caste resistance to the appointment of dalit cooks. In Karnataka, although half the cooks in the sample villages are dalits, there seems to be wide social acceptance of this arrangement. In Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, dalit cooks are largely confined to schools with no upper-caste children. The survey reported instances of active parental resistance to the appointment of dalit cooks, as in Kolu Pabuji (Jodhpur district, Rajasthan) where a Rajput parent threw sand into the mid-day meal because a Meghwal woman had cooked it. However, these are stray instances.

Source: Infochangeindia.org, October 2003

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