Monday, May 2, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Dalit school children prevented to take MID day meal with upper caste students in Odisha

Dalit school children prevented to take MID day meal with upper caste
students in Odisha
Monday, May 02, 2011

Report by Amarnath Parida; Jagatsinghpur: School teachers being
inspired by upper caste
villagers have not allowed a group of SC students to use the school
utensils and plates for taking mid day meal (MDM) in a primary school
of Balikuda block. Protesting it, harassed SC category students
stopped their education because they have been have skipped their
classes for the last four days while other SC students have refused to
take admission in this school due to caste conflict between upper and
lower caste students.

Like most of the schools in the state, students have been taken MDM
meal and used utensils and plates for taking meal during school hour.
But teachers of Keutapala Primary School under Balikuda block in
Jagatsinghpur district being inspired by upper caste villagers
prevented SC and dalit students to use utensils and plates and advised
them to sit separately due to untouchability. Although all students
belonging to upper castes were allowed to take MID meals with utensils
and plates , as many as 25 dalit students of the school, including
girls, were prevented to sit with them at the time of taking meal or
restricted to use government supplied plates.

The village has a population of about 500, and about 150 of them are
dalits. However, SC and dalit students are not allowed to take meal
with upper castes and also prevented to worship God or Goddess on the
days of Ganesh puja and Saraswati puja since past several years,
said SC villager.

The teachers have also directed these students to use banana leaves to
eat the MDM by sitting separately from the upper caste pupils. They
were also restricted from using the school glasses to drink water and
also directed to bring mats from their houses to sit in the class
rooms. They were also denied use of soaps to wash their hands. To
quench their thirst, they were forced to go outside theschool premises
to drink water, alleged the students.

One girl student Barasa Mallick says in full of twist eyes 'we are
neglected by school teachers and lady teachers do not beat them by
cane but threw it on them to avert untochabilty while teacher hit cane
directly to upper case students'. Another student Bijya Mallick 'we
are SC by caste so teachers advised them to sit separately to take
meal on banana leaves while upper caste students take meal on plate by
sitting in groups. Protesting such act of the school teachers, our
parents have restricted us to go to school," – said other SC students.

One guardian Mrs Puni Mallick said that we have aired their grievances
to district collector and BDO but administration did not hear their
plight so we take measure step for not sending students to schools
because they face mental agony and harassment.

School headmistress Mrs Jostanarani Swain stated 'the allegations made
by the SC students and their parents regarding caste discrimination
are purely fake and baseless and ready to face any probe on this

Despite India's constitution outlawing caste discrimination, dalits,
comprising 16 percent of the country's 1.1 billion populations,
however, often face mistreatment from upper caste people
in many parts of the country. - said general secretary of congress
district unit of SC and ST cell Mr Debendra Mallick.

Additional District Magistrate, Jagatsinghpur Mr Upendranath Mallick
has expressed 'ban to dalit students on MDM is purely unfortunate so
this matter has come to the notice to the
administration in which he has directed BDO, Balikuda to begin probe
on the basis of the complaints by the students and their parents'.

Stern action would be taken against the errant teachers if they will
be found guilty during the probe- he added. On the other hand, local
MP Mr Bibhuprasad Tarai has expressed 'anti dalit remark to MLA, MP
and ADM by agriculture minister Mr Damodar Rout is the main cause of
the rise of caste conflict and untouchablity issues in different
institutions in this district so
exemplary action against culprits would change this practice'.


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