OBC students allegedly refuse mid-day meals cooked by Dalit woman

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In Gujarat’s Morbi district, 147 students from Other Backward Classes have refused to eat mid-day meals at a school allegedly because a Dalit woman has been cooking the food, The Times of India reported on Thursday.

Children from Koli, Bharwad, Thakor and Gadhvi communities have reportedly shunned the meals since June 16 after a Dalit woman, Dhara Makwana, was given the contract to prepare the food, according to a police complaint by the woman’s husband, Gopi Makwana.

The incident is said to have taken place at the Shri Sokhda Primary School at Sokhda village.

The matter has been transferred to an officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police. “Police officers told me this was an issue concerning the school and district administration and they could not interfere,” Gopi Makwana said.

In his complaint, Gopi Makwana stated that Dhara Makwana had cooked food for 153 students on June 16. However, 147 Other Backward Class students refused to stay back for the mid-day meal after being influenced by their parents.

Dhara Makwana has requested the police to intervene in the matter, and claimed that she was being victimised due to caste bias, according to The Times of India.

Bindiya Ratnotar, the school principal, said that she held two meetings with the school monitoring committee, which includes the parents, but the parents did not change their stand.

On Thursday, officials from the education and revenue departments also held a meeting with parents and teachers at the school, The Indian Express reported. Morbi District Primary Education Officer Bharat Vidja said that the officials and teachers attempted to get parents to convince their children to eat the mid-day meals.

“As per the report of the inquiry committee, it is not an issue of caste bias,” Vidja said. “It is just that children are opting not to have the mid-day meal served in the school.”

The sarpanch of the village claimed that not too many children ate mid-day meals earlier.

However, Gopi Makwana claimed that after a while Dalit students also stopped eating food at the school, and his wife was forced to stop cooking mid-day meals from the second week of July.

“This was not the case when an OBC person had the contract” he claimed, according to The Indian Express.

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