Uttarakhand: 6 months on, students in Champawat still refuse food made by Dalit

Uttarakhand: 6 months on, students in Champawat still refuse food made by Dalit

TNN | Jul 17, 2022, 07.08 AM IST
DEHRADUN: Nothing much seems to have changed in Champawat’s Sukhidang government inter-college even six months after some upper caste students stopped having mid-day meal cooked by Sunita Devi, a Dalit bhojanmata (cook). Sunita alleged on Saturday that students were still not only refusing to eat meals cooked by her, but also not ready to have milk served by her under the mid-day meal programme.

This comes despite a recent visit to the school by Champawat DM Narender Singh Bhandari during which he had urged students and parents to shun “caste discrimination”. Parents of some of the upper caste students had then said that their children “should not be forced to have mid-day meal cooked by the Dalit cook”.

The school has 57 students – 37 from the general category and 20 from SC community.

‘Kids want me to quit and work as labourer’
It has two cooks, Vimla Upreti from general category hired in 2016, and Sunita Devi, a Dalit, reinstated in January this year.
Speaking to TOI, Sunita said, “Even after the DM’s request, they are not ready to eat meals cooked by me. However, it’s not the case with the other bhojanmata. When the DM couldn’t change their discriminatory mindset towards me, what can anyone do now?”

Sunita alleged that some upper caste villagers want her to quit the school work and “take up a labourer’s job” as the chairman of the school’s parents-teacher association has “blocked her salary (for the month of May) for over a month and a half”. “The chairman is refusing to sign my pay cheque. This is to put pressure on me to take back the case which was registered against him and others after my complaint earlier this year. But I won’t take back the case, it is a matter of my dignity now,” she said.

The school’s principal couldn’t be contacted despite several attempts. One of the school management officials confirmed the developments to TOI. District chief education officer, Jitendra Saxena, meanwhile, said, “The salary issue was not in my knowledge. We will take necessary steps to ensure that she gets it. As far as the students still refusing to eat meals cooked by her, we have made all efforts to change that but to no avail. Having said that, Sunita Devi cannot be removed as she has been appointed as per the due procedure.” Discrimination towards Sunita came to light last year when TOI reported on the mid-meal incident. Her appointment was also terminated by the chief education officer of the district. A few days later, Champawat district administration reinstated her.

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