The incident came to light on Thursday, when it was found during a routine inspection of the school that the upper caste students were not eating the mid-day meal as it was prepared by a dalit woman. “There are 137 upper caste students in the school and all of them had refused to eat the food prepared by a dalit woman,” education department officials said.
The officials were shocked and surprised to know that the students were asked by their parents to refuse the food. “My parents have asked me not to eat the mid-day meal as it is prepared by a lower caste woman,” said Shivam, a second standard student at the school.
“The parents have made it clear that they will prefer to withdraw their wards from the school than allowing them to have meals prepared by a dalit woman,” the officials said. The dalit cook Shanti Devi is deeply hurt. “I repeatedly requested the upper caste children to eat the mid-day meal but they refused,” she said.
District basic education officer Sanjai Shukla said that the officials were trying to persuade the parents to allow their wards to eat the meal. Principal of the school Maan Singh has been suspended for trying to cover up the issue.
“It has been like that for many days but the principal, instead of contacting the senior officials and trying to resolve the matter, tried to cover it up,” the officials said. The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, also known as Mid-Day Meal Programme, is a centrally-sponsored scheme and was launched on August 15, 1995.