Thursday, September 16, 2004

Dalit discrimination mars MP school


Rubina Khan Shapoo

Thursday, September 16, 2004 (Bhopal):

In the Purankhedhi village of Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh, members of the dominant Lodhi community have stopped sending their children to the sarkari school after they found out that the mid day meal at the school was being cooked by a Dalit.

They would rather keep their children uneducated than have them eat food cooked by a Dalit. This has further aggravated the rift between the Dalits and the non Dalits.

There was a time when three rooms could barely accommodate the 130 students enrolled in the primary school.

For the last two weeks, however, one room is empty and attendance is poor as many children have been withdrawn from school.

Ensuring equality

The practice of Dalits cooking midday meals for schools was a plan started by Chief Minister Uma Bharti, who herself is a Lodhi by caste.

Till a fortnight back, however, the mid day meal was cooked separately for the Dalits and the upper caste children, a fact that was reported in the local media.

This led to government officials taking stern steps to ensure everyone ate food cooked by the Dalit cook.

"We will try to improve the system and if anybody does not cooperate we will take legal action against them," said Geeta, Collector, Shivpuri.

Move backfires

This move on part of the government however, backfired with most of the non-Dalits withdrawing their children from school.

Only 40-50 students attend school regularly and the upper caste children bring their food from home.

Caste conflict evident in Purankhedhi is not an exception. Bharat seems to be frozen in time while India moves ahead and talks about becoming a super nation.

Source: NDTV, September 16, 2004

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