Ballia: In what comes as another instance of discrimination along the religious lines, a video of Muslim students being served mid-day meals on pattal [leaf plates] while other students are using plates has gone viral on the social media.
The video has been purportedly shot in Ballia’s primary school falling under the Ubhaon police station. The district magistrate confirmed that such an incident has taken place about a month ago and that action was taken against the school for the alleged discrimination. The district chief, however, claimed that the children did not come with their dishes, which is why they were served that way. He said that there was no intentional discrimination behind this.
Bhavani Singh Khangaraut, the Ballia district magistrate, however, said that constitutionally, discrimination is a punishable offence and an enquiry should be conducted in this regard.
“I had got the information about the incident and action was taken against the school staff. The matter has been brought to me again after it was reported in the media and now, before jumping to any conclusion, I would request everyone to wait for the inquiry to finish. I assure that strict action would be taken, as every religion has got equal rights as per the Indian Constitution. If such a thing is happening in the schools, it will lead to a very bad impact on the students, which are the future of the country,” the district magistrate said.
Right to education activist Samina Bano told NewsClick, “If this was unintentional and was choice of the students themselves, then, I don't think this issue should be blown out of proportion.”
“However if it was intentional, then it is a grave matter, especially considering the present environment which is already extremely toxic and full of hatred, where mob lynchings of Muslims have been normalised. Such an act of exclusion at school level is several times more dangerous when children are at a formative stage. They are being exposed to discrimination and exclusion in the name of religion at a young age that they can internalise for life. Nothing could be worse than this,” she said.
Lucknow-based Muslim activist, Faizan Musanna, said, “This is one of the worst incidents of the recent times where kids have been subjected to discrimination based in their religions.”
“The government should look into the matter and stringent action should be taken against the accused if the allegations of the religious discrimination turn out to be true. The government has failed in containing the atrocities against Muslims and now with such incidents being reported, it seems that the situation is going out of hands. The government should immediately come up with something to stop such things,” he said.
According to the latest data (2018-19) provided by Programme Approval Board (PAB), which monitors and approves annual work plan and budgets for mid-day meals, 1.10 crore students were supposed to receive mid-day meals in the primary and upper primary schools, but actually, only 1.02 crore students were given mid-day meals. This means that 7.7 lakh students did not receive their meals.
The quality of the meals being provided in schools has also been questioned several times as a number of cases of where kids fell sick after consuming the food have been reported – recently from Barabanki and Merrut.
A few days ago, the government of Uttar Pradesh had received flak after a video of students being served salt to eat with bread had gone viral on social media.
Also read: UP School Children Seen Eating Roti-Salt, Data Suggests Huge Scam in Mid-Day Meal Scheme