Dalit kids served in­jus­tice at MP school

Chil­dren say they are made to sit sep­a­rately, fed mid-day meal left­overs and the food is thrown at them

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - NATION - Sra­vani Sarkar and Mukesh Pandey

BHOPAL/HARDA: Hunger and hu­mil­i­a­tion — that’s all 6-yearold Neha has learnt at her vil­lage school.

“We are made to sit apart. The food served is just a quar­ter of what is given to other chil­dren. The per­sons who serve it al­most throw it at us to avoid contact,” she said. Therein lies the rub. Neha is one of the 20-odd Dalit chil­dren at­tend­ing the gov­ern­ment school of Da­gawashankar vil­lage in Harda dis­trict (120 km from Bhopal). And the school keeps them at arm’s length, lit­er­ally.

The seat­ing is sep­a­rate, dur­ing classes and at meal­times. The food served is left­overs, the por­tions tiny. A re­quest for a sec­ond help­ing makes the at­ten­dants see red, say Neha’s school­mates, Pramila and Bharti, who live in the nearby Ga­hal Har­i­jan Basti. Af­ter meals, they even have to wash their dishes. The chil­dren have com­plained at home.

But the par­ents, strug­gling un­der the in­jus­tice and stigma of caste, have not had the courage to de­mand jus­tice.

“Reg­is­ter­ing charges against the up­per caste peo­ple in the vil­lage is next to im­pos­si­ble,” said Kusum­bai, whose 8-yearold son Akash at­tends the school. “The gov­ern­ment says it is do­ing a lot for dal­its and trib­als. Then why do our chil­dren get only a quar­ter of the food?”

The school au­thor­i­ties deny the al­le­ga­tions.

“No dis­crim­i­na­tion hap­pens at our school,” head­mistress Usha Mehra told HT on phone.

In ab­sence of a for­mal com­plaint, the au­thor­i­ties are yet to take any steps.

SC/ST wel­fare min­is­ter Vi­jay Shah could not be reached for com­ment. Prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary of the depart­ment, M Mo­han Rao, said he would ini­ti­ate ac­tion once he gets the de­tails of the is­sue or a for­mal com­plaint.

The sub-di­vi­sional mag­is­trate of Harda, Man­jusha Rai, said such dis­crim­i­na­tion could not be tol­er­ated and an in­quiry would be con­ducted into the mat­ter. Bhavna Dubey, dis­trict ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer of Harda, also as­sured that steps would be taken to stop the dis­crim­i­na­tion.

But would it heal the scars of the Dalit chil­dren of Da­gawashankar? One can only hope.

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