Thursday, January 06, 2005

Food for thought: Kids cast in prejudice

MIDNAPORE: Caste prejudice is alive and cooking in the heart of Bengal. And what's worse, if that’s possible, is that children are being indoctrinated by their parents, who are leading a "protest" against the food served to schoolchildren as part of the midday meal scheme because the cook is from a "lower" caste. Though 14 students of Hossainpur Primary School in Bakhrabad gram panchayat of Narayangar block, Midnapore West, had their midday meals in the school premises today, resentment prevails among villagers over the cook's caste.

Seventeen students attended school today, but three left without eating, possibly on the same ground. Over 20 students, who were present yesterday, informed school authorities of their decision to boycott the midday meal. The school's strength is 55, but attendance is low because examinations are over, Narayangar BDO Mr Dhananjoy Samanta said.

The midday meal programme was to have been introduced on Monday as per a Supreme Court order. But villagers said that food cooked by an Adivasi could not be eaten by their children, the BDO said. A local self-help group run by Adivasi women, the Rani Rashmoni SHG, was given the responsibility of cooking the meal. The group was selected since it belongs to Grade I and is near the school, a requirement stipulated in government guidelines, Mr Samanta said. But, some parents wrote to the school authorities, saying their children won't eat if the food is cooked by Adivasi women. Thereafter, the BDO, accompanied by panchayat samiti sabhapati, gram pradhan and other local officials met the villagers yesterday and urged them to allow their children to eat the food cooked in school. Some villagers agreed. Mr Mr Samanta said he hoped others would also change their minds.

Source: The Statesman, January 06, 2005

1 Comments:

At January 9, 2005 at 12:28 AM, Blogger Dalit Rights said...

MIDNAPORE: The upper caste triumphed in the week-long war between the former and the Narayangar block administration in Midnapore West over the cooking of mid-day meal for students of Hossainpur Primary School under Khakurda gram panchayat in the block.

Gram panchayat leaders and administrative officials had to back off from the government’s guidelines that only Grade-I Self Help Group and those situated near the school be given the responsibility of cooking the meal in the school. At a meeting held in the school premises yesterday evening, it was unanimously decided that one or two members of three other SHG groups in the village, belonging to the upper caste will be inducted in the cooking team, the Narayangar BDO, Mr Dhananjoy Samanta, said.

Earlier, Rani Rasmoni SHG, run by Adivasi women, which is the senior most and nearest to the school, was selected for cooking the meal. This did not go down well with the guardians, who belonged to the upper caste. They stopped sending their children to the school from 3 January, the day the mid-day meal programme was introduced there, as it was being cooked and served by the Adivasi women.

The meeting was attended by over 400 people, belonging to the SC and ST and other caste besides the guardians. Besides the BDO, panchayat samiti sabhapati, karmadakshya (education) and the gram pradhan also attended.

Interestingly, though the guardians had a prejudice against the Adivasi women for preparing the meal, they find nothing wrong in agreeing to the proposal of working with the same in making the food. The villagers and guardians told in the meeting that they will send their children to the school from 10 January, the BDO said.

Source: The Statesman, January 09, 2005

 

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