Sabarkantha: In a startling case of discrimination, students of a government school in Gujarat's Sabarkantha district have been opposing the government's mid-day meal scheme. The reason being that the utensils are cleaned by a Dalit woman.
On any other day there would have been dozens of students queuing up for mid-day meals at the government school in Sabarkantha, but now only a handful turn up. The reason - Bhavnaben who washes the utensils. Bhavnaben Makwana said, "I joined work in the school, but students don't come for food. Only those from our 'samaaj' come. I was not going to work from Uttarayan."
Clearly the upper caste have instructed their wards to boycott the mid-day meal after Bhavnaben started working there. This is confirmed by the school authorities and the village sarpanch. Village sarpanch Ramanbhai Patel said "The kshatriyas were protesting. The mid-day meal scheme must go on. That's because a harijan lady is working."
Valiyampura Primary School's Vice Principal Geeta Vankar said, "We have tried to speak to parents of the students. Earlier there were very few who attended meals. Now more are coming."
Bhavnaben even stayed away from the school for a brief while following the boycott, but after the intervention of the district administration she was back at work again. Sabarkantha district RDC RJ Thakkar said, "Bhavnaben was not being allowed to go to work, so we intervened. The issue was perhaps because of her caste, but she has now retuned to work."
The social boycott at sabarkantha reveals the ugly underbelly of vibrant Gujarat - for Gujaratis it is all the more shameful because it happened in a school.