Meal row over food cooked by Dalit

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 13.02.10
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Bhubaneswar, Feb. 12: Untouchability has reared its ugly head once again in Kendrapara district, as upper caste students have stopped attending classes just because the school appointed Dalit women to cook midday meals.

Authorities of the government-run Maa Marichandi Nodal School in Rajnagar’s Sanamarichapalli village engaged a local self-help group (SHG) for cooking the midday meals.

Trouble began on January 19 when the SHG withdrew the two previous cooks and engaged two Dalit women — Ketaki Sethi and Sebati Sethi — to prepare the meals.

A section of upper caste parents objected to their appointment and even had arguments with the school authorities.

However, when the headmaster refused to change the new cooks, the parents turned violent. “Last week, they even locked up the two cooks inside the kitchen for about an hour till we were able to free them,” headmaster Rabindra Nayak said.

Following the incident, the cooks filed an FIR at the Rajnagar police station. “We have arrested one Niranjan Pradhan. He was produced at the Pattamundei court and sent to judicial custody after being denied bail,” said inspector-in-charge Maheshwar Sethi.

Pradhan was a member of the village education committee, added Sethi.

Following the incident, upper caste students refused to eat meals at the school and cooking was stopped for some days but it has resumed now and the same women are cooking it.