Tuesday, January 04, 2005

'Dait women failed to secure jobs as cooks in schools'

Kendrapara (Orissa): An organisation for the welfare of dalits here has alleged that some dalit women failed to get the jobs of cooks under the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme in primary schools because of the apprehension that students from upper castes might skip the free meals, if the food is cooked by them.

Despite the "existence of a government guideline" to recruit women, preferably from among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, they had been ignored in most of the 1427 primary schools in the Kendrapara district, Rabi Behera, secretary of the Ambedkar-Lohia Vichar Manch, said.

"On the contrary, women belonging to upper castes had sneaked into school kitchens relegating the claims of dalits," he claimed.

There were very few schools where lower caste women ran the school kitchen. They were in places predominantly inhabited by harijans, he said.

"Casteism may have been abolished as per the constitutional guidelines, but government officials are openly patronizing this social evil," Behera alleged.

Senior officials said the matter was being investigated.

The manch leader threatened that his organisation would take up the matter with the national commission on SCs and STs for redressal of the "injustice" meted out to them.

Meanwhile, the district collector Hemant Sharma said that complaints about school children skipping the meal cooked by dalit women had earlier been received and the matter was officially deliberated at a high level meeting.

"No specific direction or instruction has been issued to recruit women of upper caste as cooks," Sharma said.

However, he admitted that there was some veracity in the allegations.

SourcE: Press Trust of India, January 04, 2005

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