Dalit children in UP govt school told to keep mid-day meal plates apart

Photo: Adnan Abidi/Reuters. Image for representational purpose only

The headmistress of a school in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri district was suspended on Friday following reports of separate utensils for Dalit students during mid-day meals.

Following a complaint of caste discrimination against Dalit students in Daudapur Government Primary School in Mainpuri, the officials discovered that the utensils that children belonging to Schedules Caste used for their mid-day meals were kept apart on the premises, and washed by the children themselves, Indian Express reported.

The school headmistress Garim Rajput was suspended and the two cooks Somvati and Laxmi Devi were relieved of their duties after they said they “could not touch” utensils used by the Dalit students.

The complaint was made by Sahab Singh, the husband of the newly elected sarpanch Manju Devi, the newspaper reported.

Sahab Singh told Indian Express that he saw the school kitchen was dirty and that only 10-15 plates were kept there when he went to the school for a meeting on 18 September. He says: “I asked the cooks where the other thaalis were, and they said the ones in the kitchen belonged to Backward and General Category students, while 50-60 thaalis were kept separately. I was also told that students belonging to Scheduled Castes were forced to wash their own dishes and keep them, as no one belonging to other castes was willing to touch them.”

Sixty of the 80 children at the school belong to Scheduled Castes, according to the newspaper.

In a video that has been doing the rounds of social media, a parent of a Dalit student said that the children talk about untouchablity at home too.

He said: “Children come here, they are made to wash utensils. The teachers make them do it. I have seen it myself. I told the teacher, but he ignored me. The children talk about it, at home too”

“The utensils used by the Scheduled Caste children and other children were kept separately. The Block Development Officer and other officials visited the school. During the visit, the cooks Somvati and Laxmi Devi refused to touch the utensils of the Scheduled Caste students and said they can’t work at the school if they were forced to do so. They also used caste slurs,” said Mainpuri Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) Kamal Singh adding that he received a complaint regarding this on Wednesday and a team was sent to the school to carry out an inspection.

While raising concerns about casteism, Shubham Singh, who won a Mainpuri zila panchayat seat backed by the Samajwadi Party, said: “The BJP makes big claims of Dalit upliftment. They give token posts to some leaders from the community, but this is the reality of UP… decades after Dr. B R Ambedkar faced such issues in his school days.”