Despite being a Sunday, a district administration team led by tehsildar of Harda, visited Dagawashankar village and held discussions with the villagers in context of report in HT (on September 30) about alleged discrimination with dalit kids in the village school.
The principal secretary of SC welfare department, M Mohan Rao had on Saturday assured HT that he would talk to the district authorities to initiate proper steps in the issue.
Later, talking to HT, the tehsildar Bhaskar Gachle said that none of the villagers made a complaint to the team about the alleged discrimination in distribution of mid-day meals. He said that the team members talked separately to the dalit kids and other kids, but none of them spoke of any discrimination.
However later, Jagdish Nimore, father of a girl student Babita, reiterated to HT over telephone that the complaints about discrimination with dalit kids in school, especially during distribution of mid-day meal was true. Babita (Class 3 student) herself told HT over phone that the food was given to them (dalit students) from a distance and only a fixed quota was always given to her and she had to wash utensils.
Jagdish said that even his elder daughter Manisha, when she was a student of the school, had complained that the teachers never drank water touched by her and that food was served to her from a distance.
Sources said that villagers were restrained before the district administration team and could not speak up openly, mainly in presence of other villagers.
The tehsildar meanwhile told HT that the villagers have been given option of lodging secret complaint with the authorities if they were not able to speak up openly. However, he conceded that all the self-help groups involved in making mid-day meals were of upper caste people.
The district administration team that visited the village included block education officer, assistant district programme coordinator (of Rajya Shiksha Kendra), principal of the school Usha Mehra, members of the parents' teachers' association, members of self-help group serving mid-day meal, sarpanch and panchayat secretary of the village.
While district collector Sudam Khande remained unavailable for comments, sub-divisional magistrate Manjusha Rai told HT that a block level administrative team had gone to the village to investigate and no complaints were heard during open and one-to-one discussions with villagers. "However, we would inspect the actual meal serving process to know the truth," she said.