Anganwadi centre locked up for Dalit cook

Kendrapara, Jan 30 An Anganwadi centre in the remote seaside village of Debendranarayanpur is locked up for the last three months, depriving as many as 60 children of mid-day meal and early education. 
Reason: A Dalit woman has been appointed as its cook-cum-helper.

Some upper-caste villagers had taken exception to the appointment of Sanjukta Biswas, a Dalit, as cook-cum-helper of the Anganwadi centre. Claiming that their children will not take the food prepared by Sanjukta, they demanded her replacement and have locked up the centre since November 2 last year. 
“They have stopped me from opening the centre. I intimated the matter to the Chief Development Project Officer (CDPO) of Rajnagar block. She assured necessary action but the issue is yet to be resolved,” said Anganwadi worker and in-charge of the centre Anjalirani Mandal. 

Speaking to Express, Biswas said, “I was posted by the authorities as a helper in the centre. but some upper caste villagers warned me not to cook food for their children. When I refused to obey their diktat, they locked up the centre.”

Meanwhile, a team of Dalit leaders visited the village on Monday. They have blamed the district administration for failing to take action against the persons who have illegally locked up the centre.
“The Supreme Court in an order in 2004 directed that cooks belonging to SC and ST should be given priority in the midday meal preparation in the schools. Stern action should be taken against the persons who objected to the appointment of a Dalit woman as a cook,” said Nagen Jena, a Dalit leader and district president of Dalit Samaj. 

The Rajnagar CDPO Puspalata Das said she had tried to persuade the villagers to let the centre function but they were unrelenting. “I have informed the district administration authorities in this regard,” she said.
With the issue threatening to blow up, the administration has finally been stirred into action. Kendrapara Sub-Collector Sanjay Mishra said, “Rajnagar Tehsildar has been asked to submit a detailed report. After getting the report, appropriate action will be taken against the persons who illegally locked the Anganwadi centre.” Credit

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