Tumkur- A surprising incident unfolded at a government school in Sira taluk, Tumkur district, where a section of students reportedly refused to partake in the mid-day meal prepared by a Dalit woman. Activists from the village claimed that children associated with the School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) Chairman and members opted to bring separate lunch boxes, citing the background of the meal preparer.
Education department officials, including the Block Education Officer and Assistant Director (Mid-Day-Meal), promptly investigated the matter. Contrary to allegations of caste-based discrimination, they found that five children had abstained from the free meal, claiming nausea after consumption.
As per a leading hindi daily report, the in-charge of the mid-day meal program stated, "We gathered information from parents and teachers about five children who were not partaking in the school meals. Upon inquiry, they revealed that the children felt nauseated after eating. There is no evidence of caste-based discrimination, with parents, teachers, and students expressing support for the school authorities' meal service."
To address the situation, officials visited the school and spoke with stakeholders. After the inquiry, it was revealed that everyone, except one individual allergic to the school's food, had partaken in the lunch together.
Manjunath, the block education officer of Madhugiri taluk, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, stated, "Everyone had lunch together, except for one person who was allergic to the food served in the school."
MDM is a government scheme to improve the health of children by offering nutritious food to students of primary schools run by the government. However, it is not mandatory for a student to eat the meal served at the school. Many incidents have been reported in the past where children have abstained from consuming food prepared by cook from dalit community.
In August 2022, an incident unfolded in Morbi district, Gujarat, where officials from the education and revenue departments took swift action in response to allegations made by a Dalit midday meal (MDM) contractor. The contractor asserted that students from OBC communities were boycotting the meals prepared by Dalits, specifically members of the contractor's family.
Following media reports that brought attention to the purported meal boycott, a team comprising two education inspectors from Morbi taluka and the deputy mamlatdar of MDM in Morbi visited the village primary school at the center of the controversy. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the district collector also dispatched a deputy mamlatdar to join the investigative team. Later it was told that the children did not like the taste of the food and so carried their own lunchboxes and prefer to have home-cooked food instead of eating the midday meal at the school.