Dehradun/Pithoragarh: Sunita, a sacked Dalit cook of the late Shri Ramchandra Government Inter College, a freedom fighter, has been reinstated in Sukhidhang in Champawat district of Uttarakhand.
According to the Indian Express, soon after Sunita filed a complaint under the SC/ST Act and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC, the district administration announced her reinstatement.
Champawat’s Chief Education Officer (CEO) RC Purohit said that Sunita Devi would start working from January 16 after the winter break.
“Earlier, he was removed as proper procedure was not followed for his appointment,” he said. Now they have been reinstated after due process.
32-year-old Sunita said that she has received information about her reinstatement. He said, ‘I hope there will be no problem this time. I am both hopeful and unsure.
Based on Sunita’s complaint, a case has been registered against 30 people. Champawat SP Devendra Pincha said that all the accused are from Sukhidhang and nearby villages and no arrest has been made so far.
Sunita says that she felt more sorry for her two sons than herself. He said, ‘He never knew about the division of these castes, but now after my insult, he has started inquiring about them. They must have felt bad. Anyone will feel it.’
The parents who opposed Sunita’s appointment had alleged violation of the rule. However, the headmaster Prem Singh, who is himself a Dalit, pointed out that despite the official criterion for the post giving preference to non-general category (category) appointments, the school with a majority of so-called upper caste students had not even one for the last 10 years. Dalit was not a cook.
The search for a new cook began in October, when one of the two cooks, who prepared the mid-day meal for students of classes 6 to 8 (the school is up to class 12), retired, he said.
Singh said that he had advertised at the local level on October 28 and six people applied, including five from the general category and one from the scheduled caste.
Prem Singh said, ‘The rule of appointment is that the person should belong to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category. But none of the six met that criterion. I informed the school management committee (SMC, which includes parents) and the parent-teacher association that we need to invite more applications. The previous advertisement also did not mention that SC, ST and OBC candidates would be given preference. So on November 12, a new advertisement was issued and we received five applications.
After this the principal said, ‘The four-member committee selected Sunita Devi, whose two children study in the same school, after ascertaining that she fulfilled all the qualifications.
But PTA president Narendra Joshi refused to sign the appointment. Principal Singh claimed that at a meeting where he was not present, some other parents supported Joshi, objecting to the Dalit cook. Angered by this, some other people of the SC community went out.
He told that on December 4, Sunita’s name was sent to the Block Education Officer for approval. Since the school was in urgent need of a cook, Sunita started working on 13 December. It was only after about two-three days that the boycott of the food prepared by him started.
It is to be known that a Sunita in this college was sacked after 43 children of the alleged upper caste, studying in classes VI to VIII, refused to eat the food cooked by her. On 20th December, Sunita was refused to come to work.
Then the Champawat Education Department officials, however, told the reason for his removal from the job due to procedural lapse in the appointment. A few days later, around 20 Dalit students refused to eat the mid-day meal prepared by an alleged upper caste woman in protest against the sacking of a Scheduled Caste cook.
Chief Education Officer RC Purohit says that the children refused to eat food not because of caste prejudices but because of the ‘ego fight’ going on over the appointment.
Purohit said, ‘Bhojan Mata is appointed by the principal and the SMC. Later approval is given by the Deputy Education Officer. Principal Singh was wrong in demanding more names after the first round of selection.
Also, the CEO acknowledged that the caste divide among the students is deeply ingrained. “It was not easy for us to convince them as they listen to their parents more,” he said.
PTA president Joshi acknowledged caste bias in an area where Brahmins form a two-thirds majority. However, he insisted, ‘The boycott started mainly because of Sunita’s appointment as the parents agreed on another name, Pushpa Bhatt. According to her, Bhatt was more eligible for a job like Sunita being BPL as well as being a single mother.
Uttarakhand ST-AC Commission had spoken of going to court if there was no restoration
Earlier, the Uttarakhand SC/ST Commission had warned that if Sunita is not re-hired, it will move the court.
Uttarakhand SC/ST Commission Chairman Mukesh Kumar had said on Thursday, “I have requested the district administration to do justice to Sunita Devi, a Dalit food mother of Sukhidhang Inter College.”
Kumar said that he has also requested the administration to identify the people associated with the matter as they are disturbing the “traditional social fabric” of Uttarakhand.
(with input from news agency language)
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