Report says caste, gender discrimination rampant

More than 180 schools serving the mid-day meal (MDM) across five states have allowed caste or gender based discrimination over the last two years, a status report of discrimination in schools has said.

Forty-one independent monitoring institutes (MI) have submitted reports to the Union Human Resource Development Ministry about instances of discrimination and untouchability in 186 schools across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

Children from the SC/ST categories are routinely segregated from other children, made to sit and eat separately; food cooked by SC/ST cooks is often refused by many children or their parents. There are also cases where Dalit students are served from a distance, and several students bring their own plates for fear of utensils being touched by Dalit classmates. Instances of gender discrimination as well with only girls being made to serve meals in some schools, reports have revealed.

Taking note, the Parliamentary Committee on Welfare of SC/STs dealing specifically with prevention of untouchability in the implementation of the MDM programme has sought a report from the ministry on this.

Joint Secretary (School Education), HRD, Amarjit Singh has already taken a serious note of the problem of discrimination in schools. Singh had noted in July that while one of the objectives of the scheme is to foster a sense of social equity amongst students by encouraging them to sit together and take meals irrespective of economic status, caste, religion and gender, untouchability was still rampant. "Clear instances of untouchability even within the school premises during cooking, serving and eating mid-day meal were observed in Betul, Burhanpur, Chhindwara, Singrauli, Panna, Satna and Chhatarpur districts of Madhya Pradesh. Religion-based discrimination was observed in Dungarpur of Rajasthan. Caste-based discrimination was reported in primary and upper primary school Amthapada of Bhoud, Orissa, in one school of Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, 17.5 per cent schools of Jaisalmer, 67.5 per cent schools of Pratapgarh of Rajasthan," Singh has written in his note.

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