Caste Discrimination in Mid-Day Meal Scheme and Public Distribution System

This section attempts to understand caste-based exclusion and discrimination in government policies. Though, this section only focuses on mid-day meal scheme and public distribution system. It helps to know that does caste-based exclusion exist in the scheme and policies of the state? In this regard, one of the significant aims of this section is to see untouchable’s ownership or participation in mid-day scheme and public distribution system. However, this section mainly emphasizes exclusion of untouchables as cooks from cooking meal in mid-day meal scheme; along with this, it shows discrimination of untouchables in the matter of ownership of the shops for distributing ration through civil supplies.

It helps to uncover social inequality and caste-based barriers related to participation of Dalits in government policies and schemes. Sukhadeo Thorat and Joel Lee in their work Dalit and the Right to Food-Discrimination and Exclusion in Food-Related Government Programs emphasized that the policy maker and government, when introducing new food-related schemes should include specific provision for the prevention of caste-based discrimination and exclusion in the implementation of such programs .

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They further concluded that how untouchable cooks are opposed by caste Hindu society during implementing scheme such as Mid-day Meal Scheme, they explain it that “opposition to Dalit cooks is actually a blanket term describing several different patterns of specific acts of caste discrimination and exclusion observed in the study.

The pattern can be grouped into five, which take place at different points during the process of Mid-day Meal Scheme (MMS) institution and continuance. First, when local administrators are putting the MMS into place, dominate caste community members intervene to block the hiring of Dalit cooks, favoring dominate caste cooks instead.

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Where a Dalit cook has been hired, dominate caste parents begin sending their children to school with lunches packed at home, or require their children to come home for lunch, in any case forbidding their children to eat food prepared by the Dalit cook. In the third stage, dominant caste parents or community members pressure the local administration to dismiss the Dalit cook, on any pretext, and hire a dominant caste cook instead.

Where this is ineffective, or sometimes without the intervening step, the dominant caste parents campaign to shut down the MMS in the village school altogether. Finally, some dominant caste parents react to the hiring and keeping of a Dalit cook by withdrawing their children from the school and sometimes admitting them in a different school where the cook is not Dalit” (Thorat and Lee, 2006: 6). It can be also witnessed through many examples in newspapers and social media which describe the above arguments, for instances, a digital news organization ‘Khabar Lahariya’ describes a case in Budelkhand, at the primary school in Madavra village in the district of Lalitpur.

A Dalit woman (Usha) was placed for cooking meal for students five years ago through government policy, but nobody was ready to eat food cooked by her. Although she needed job, therefore, she unwillingly started doing others given works in school instead of cooking, such as, Jhadhdo Pocha, aur Bartan Dhona . However, the work that she wanted to get rid of, she was again pushed into the same works. Santosh Kumar in his work examined that caste bias discrimination can be seen in Karrnataka and 100 out of 118 children in government school switched to another school due to the cook appointed to prepare food for mid-day meal was an untouchable woman .

Similarly, Thorat and Lee give examples of Komara village in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh and Bhunabhay village in Ajmer district, Rajasthan, in where the higher caste parents have opposed to hire or keep untouchable cooks for cooking food for students of primary schools . Further they explain that “behind all of these trends of dominate caste behavior is the classic Hindu understanding of purity and pollution, according to which prepared by a Dalit-that is, an “untouchable” is considered “polluted” by virtue of its contact with the intrinsically polluted Dalit” (Thorat and lee, 2006: 6). It also reveals the power struggle over livelihood rights between communities. It can be seen here that by opposing untouchable cooks, the upper caste try to keep untouchables (Dalit) away from new livelihood jobs, such as, all the government employment related to food services such as MMS cooks at the village level.

However, this exclusion and discrimination cannot be seen only in the case of mid-day meal scheme but also it can be noticed in the matter of ownership of ration shops in public distribution system (TPDS or PDS). The untouchables do not get easily ownership of ration shops because society cannot accept grains by any of the untouchable (Dalit) hands. Therefore, it is not easy for any Dalit to get ownership of these ration shops. And if they get ownership, it is not possible that they can operate without any constraints and opposition. Thorat and Lee mention those states in their survey which have very less proportion and nominal of Dalit in ownership of PDS shops are Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradeh, Tamilnadu etc.

Caste Dominance in Contemporary Food and Beverage Enterprises

In this section, an attempt has been made to describe the present situation of both (lower and upper) entrepreneurship in food and beverage industries. On the one side, this section analyses historical superiority, and dominance of upper strata in food and beverage industries. In contrast, on the other side, this section locates the untouchability and suppression of Dalit entrepreneurs in the same businesses. Some decades ago, it could be openly witnessed that people of higher strata with brahminical mindset were not in favor of giving any economic rights to Dalits. Apart from this, there was not such social and economic condition of Dalits that they could start their own business.

The untouchables and persons of the lowest castes were seen to be associated with many kinds of untouchability and impurities because of which they were kept away from the rest of the society. Even if they wanted to do any high-profile businesses, it was not possible for them to do it in such conservative society. The involvement of untouchables in some occupations which were completely restricted to them was not less than any major crime in that society. For instances, untouchable becoming food sellers, or owner of grocery shop etc. in this regard, the upper castes believed that due to the involvement of untouchables in these occupations, the impurity would extend to the rest of society and that may be cause of pollution to upper castes and their religion. Moreover, this type of separation was very important for people of upper strata to maintain economic and social status in society based on caste.

On the other side, in contrast, upper castes had all the basic facilities through which they could easily start or run any business. This is been sanctified by the Shastras. They did not face much problems comparison to any untouchables, the upper caste and their products were considered pure and acceptable for the rest of the society. Apart from this, they did not have any major social constraints for promoting and advertising their products. Therefore, they could have easily established their enterprises.

Here, it can be analyzed that in modern India. People of high-caste can be seen in food and beverage industries while untouchables have to compel to hide their identities for selling and promoting their food and beverage related products if they exist. Additionally, the food and beverage products generally are not manufactured under a brand of Dalit entrepreneurs. Therefore, they have to depend on upper castes firms or brands to run or sell their own products. They do not have any choice. Because in India, the purity related food and mainstream of food culture are ascribed to upper communities and castes. Therefore, It needs to be understood the how the processing of food control has always been an important strategy in brahminic ideology which has been helping the upper castes to occupy all food and beverage related businesses. On the other side, this strategy impacts negatively to untouchables and the people of lowest castes because ‘the food and drink products are the most common means of emphasizing on their insulting position on Dalits’ .

Parul Agarwal in his work Caste on Your Plate; A Tale of Food Snobbery in India denotes that the history of food in India has been dominating by upper castes. The tradition of upper caste-based cookbooks, brands, and foods products have been dominating in Indian food and beverage industries or services for long times. In India, it can be seen that Indian food industry is only owned by most people of upper strata, and their food and beverage based products are not only famous in India but also are worldwide well known, such as, Haldirma, Parle, etc. Additionally, some of these products of upper castes have made a significant identity in consumerist society. Even, these enterprises or firms have successfully operated their businesses into more than 50 to 60 countries. My focus is on these well-known and the most popular food and beverage enterprises and brands which were established by people of upper strata. Besides, those businesses, which are being operated by people of upper castes in Indian market.

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Caste Discrimination in Mid-Day Meal Scheme and Public Distribution System. (2022, Apr 21). Retrieved from

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