Yet again, the mid-day meal scheme in Uttar Pradesh is making headlines. This time, not for its lack of nutritious value, but for its lack of inclusiveness.
Some students of a primary school in Rampur were found to be bringing plates from home for the mid-day meals and eat separately from those belonging to SC, ST, and Dalit communities, according to an ANI report. “Anyone can eat in the plates available in schools, so we bring separate plates from home,” one student from the school told ANI. Affirming that the practice is prevalent in the school P Gupta, Principal of the primary school told ANI, “We ask students to sit together and eat but they go their separate ways as soon as we leave. Maybe they’ve learnt it from home. We’ve tried a lot to teach them that they’re all equals but students from upper caste try to stay away from those of lower-caste.”
If anyone still needed convincing that caste-based discrimination is rampant in the country, and that it starts young, look no further than this report.
For not just UP, such discrimination was noticed in some schools in Tamil Nadu where students were asked to wear color bands on their wrist based on their caste. These bands come in shades of red, yellow, green and saffron to indicate whether they belong to a ‘lower caste’ or ‘upper caste’.
Earlier this year, an anganwadi in Odisha’s Debendranarayanpur was locked up for more than three months as the cook who had been appointed belonged to the Dalit community. Students of a primary school in UP’s Palharia village refused to have mid-day meal as the meal was prepared by ‘lower’ caste women. Parents joined in and protested outside the school against the hiring.
Recently a viral video from Tamil Nadu’s Vellore showed people of the Dalit community lowering a body from a bridge as they were denied access to the road leading to the cremation ground.
It may be 2019, but we’re stuck in the dark ages.