NEW DELHI: Rajasthan's poor record on caste and gender roles continues and the state seems to have taken the lead in cases of such discrimination in the government's midday meal scheme.
A series of reports have claimed that the flagship scheme in Rajasthan, Odisha, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh is afflicted with large-scale caste and gender-based discrimination.
The human resources development (HRD) ministry has decided to send central teams to specific districts in the four states from where such reports have come. The maximum discrimination has been reported from Rajasthan where the HRD ministry's monitoring agency found that upper caste children were not sharing mid-day meals with lower caste children in Karauli.
In Dausa, scheduled caste children were made to sit separately and eat mid-day meals. In Sirohi too children were segregated on caste lines for belonging to the minority community and were eating food separately.
"The teacher shouldn't have allowed such communalization in the MDM," monitoring agency Shiv Charan Mathur Social Policy Research Institute said.
The situation was far worse in Dungarpur. The monitoring agency, Institute of Development Studies, said 85% school children were found sitting in caste groups.
A similar story of caste segregation was found in Jaisalmer. Additionally, in urban areas of Jaisalmer district, upper caste children refused to eat food with dalit children.
In Pali, 57.5% school children were sitting in caste-based groups and it was also found that in 10% schools, only upper caste children were served the midday meal. Gender discrimination could be seen in 12.5% schools as girls were made to serve the food.
While the discrimination was gender-based in Karnataka's Chamarajanagar, Haveri and Uttara Kannada; it was both gender and caste-based in Orissa's Kandhamal and Boudh.
In MP's Narsinghpur, the monitoring agency found that in 17.5% schools, upper caste children did not eat midday meal as cooks belonged to lower castes.
The monitoring agency, MP Institute of Social Science Research, Ujjain, reported that the practice of untouchability within school premises in schools of Betul as well as Satna, Chhindwara, Burhanpur, Balaghat, Shivpuri, Narshingpur and Hoshangabad was rampant.
In Satna, upper caste, SC and OBC children sat separately. In Panna, dalit children were served food from a distance.
In some places, children of one social group for fear of their plates being touched by the lower caste students started bringing their own plates from home. In Hoshangabad, higher caste girls sat away from those of the lower castes.
[Courtesy: TOI, August 6, 2012]