Appointment of Dalit cook halts mid-day meal programme

Siraha, June 13

Untouchability is a punishable crime in the country. However, it is so deep-rooted in people’s mind that it is still practised in many parts of the country. A recent example of such practice came to surface in Siraha.

A community school in Govindpur of Golbazar Municipality-9, Siraha, had to stop mid-day meal programme after the school appointed Bharsai Marik from Dom community as a cook six days ago.

Earlier, Malati Devi Mahato used to work as a cook. The issue came to surface when child development facilitator Gita Rokka Mijhar served the food prepared by Mahato to her daughter studying at the school 10 days ago.

According to local parent Raj Kumar Paswan, so-called upper caste people boycotted the meal, saying that teacher Rokka had touched the food. Paswan said cook Mahato had scolded teacher Rokka in the presence of head teacher Jagadish Yadav when the seniors of Dalit community had visited the school to take stock of the situation.

In the wake of the incident, Dalit parents and guardians piled pressure on the school management committee. As a result, Mahato was relieved from her duty and Bhalsair Marik and Urmila Mijhar were appointed as cooks for mid-day meal programme. Following a Dalit woman’s appointment as a  cook, head teacher Yadav refused to hand over the kitchen key.

Marik accused ward chair Ram Pukar Kamati of opposing the decision to appoint a Dalit woman as a cook. “After my appointment, a meeting was called to change my duty at the work. I was given a job of cleaner citing lack of experience in cooking in the presence of ward chair,” Marik said.

Siraha CDO Rudra Prasad Pandit said action would be taken against all those involved in practising untouchability.