Members of the Kambalathu Naicker community in Kammapatti near here prevented their 50 children from attending classes at the local panchayat union school on Tuesday protesting the posting of two Dalit women as cook and helper at the noon meal centre of the school.

Later in the day, a representative of the parents claimed that after talks, the Block Development Officer had agreed to transfer the employees and that their wards would attend school on Wednesday.

Maragadavalli and Veeralakshmi were posted to the Srivilliputtur Panchayat Union Elementary School during the recent recruitment drive.

While Maragadavalli came to the school only in the afternoon, the villagers had come to know about the posting of the Dalit women.

“We are not against any particular caste. We maintain cordial relationship with the Scheduled Caste people. But, it is our practice that our people, especially girls and women, do not eat food cooked by people belonging to any other community,” said B. Sanjeevi, ward member of the Kammapatti panchayat.

A team of officials from the Education Department, led by the District Elementary Educational Officer, Senthivelmurugan, and Assistant Elementary Educational Officer, Muthuramalingam, held talks with the parents.

“The officials said the issue of noon meal workers should be settled by the Block Development Officer,” said Mr. Sanjeevi, who is also the Village Education Committee chairperson. Official sources said that following a similar protest in 2007, the noon meal employees posted to the school were transferred.

“Peculiar habit”

District Revenue Officer, R. Raju, who holds additional charge as District Collector, said that the BDO had proposed to transfer the employees.

“This is a peculiar habit of this community. We cannot treat this as a practice of untouchability. Posting of people belonging to Kambalathu Naicker can be considered only when the next round of recruitment takes place,” he said.

The Personal Assistant (Noon Meal) to Collector will discuss the issue with officials and the villagers on Wednesday.

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