Dalit Cook Barred From Karnataka Anganwadi, Post Given to Maratha Helper
A Dalit appointed as a helper at an Anganwadi is being asked to take a transfer by upper castes in Bidar.
On 10 June 2021, Milana Bai, a 30-year-old Dalit woman from Hatyal village in Bidar's Basavakalayan, received an order from Karnataka Women and Child Development department, confirming her appointment as an anganwadi helper. She was hired to cook and maintain the premises of the anganwadi.
Shortly after, the school was shut due to the pandemic.
While it reopened on 4 June 2022, the higher castes in the village, including Marathas, have allegedly not been allowing the Dalit helper to enter the anganwadi premises.
Allegedly, the local villagers who have a problem with Milana Bai's caste, have also appointed a new Maratha volunteer and have asked Bai to take a transfer to the neighbouring village of Sirgapur, which is 10 kilometres away.
'Wife Not Allowed To Work or Cook'
Speaking to The Quint, Jaipal Rane, husband of Milana Bai said, "There are three anganwadis in our village and my wife was recruited on merit (general category) to be a helper in one of the schools, which is in the neighbourhood where the upper caste Hindus reside. The upper caste villagers did not allow my wife to work and cook at the anganwadi."
Sources close to Milana Bai's family said that the Dalit worker was also insulted by villagers when the school was closed. She was involved in the distribution of groceries during the lockdown.
"My wife has been getting her salary of Rs 5,000 regularly from the time she has been appointed. However, there is stiff opposition to her working at the anganwadi. Two weeks ago, another helper from the upper caste Hindu community has been cooking in the anganwadi," added Jaipal Rane.
When The Quint spoke to Siddram Mule, a Maratha man who had allegedly opposed Bai's presence in the anganwadi, he said, "The person who retired from the helper position was from the General Category. Now, it (employment) is being given to a person from the SC community. This is not right. We will not allow this."
He, however, said that Bai was not replaced. "We have not appointed anybody, and when the CDPO (Child Development Protection Officer) said there was lack of help there, we sent a few women from our community. I would like to say that the village will take decision about this matter."
'Asked To Take Job Elsewhere'
The Child Development Project Officer in Hatyal claimed that the villagers had no problem with the caste of the helper, but wanted representation for people from the General Category (an euphemism for higher castes). However, an officer from the same department, requesting anonymity, told The Quint, "The people of the village wanted a helper to be from their caste as they had a problem with Dalit being appointed as a cook. They have been demanding a replacement for the Dalit helper in this Anganwadi for over a year now."
Milana Bai and her family have alleged that she has been asked by the CDPO's office to take voluntary transfer to the neighbouring village of Sirgapur.
Meanwhile, the family has denied to move stating that they are likely to be a target of the dominant caste oppression in the adjacent village as well. Meanwhile, a volunteer has been appointed by the villagers to work at the anganwadi.
"After repeated complaints to the CDPO and social welfare department, the officers visited the village and assured that the Milana Bai could continue working in the anganwadi. But, few upper caste villagers are continuing to assert that they will not send children to the school," said Harish Kamble, a Dalit rapper from Hatyal.
As of now, the authorities have asked the dominant caste villagers to allow the Dalit helper to work at the anganwadi. But the villagers have threatened to approach the deputy commissioner's office in Bidar. The police have not registered a case against the villagers who allegedly opposed the Dalit worker.
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