Controversy erupted at a school in Coimbatore on Wednesday after some students alleged that their cook, a Dalit woman, was involved in poisoning their midday meal the previous day. On Tuesday, about 12 students of Thirumalaigoundanmpalayam government school in Tirupur district were hospitalised as they complained of vomiting after taking the noon meal. Rubbishing the allegations, the cook, P Pappal, said it was a ploy to remove her from the school.
The principal of the school, Sasikala, lodged a complaint of negligence against Pappal after parents of the children alleged that a dead lizard was found in the food. However, Pappal said she and her daughter had also taken the food and nothing happened to them. She said it was a conspiracy to oust her from the school.
A closer look at the incident reveals that the appointment of Pappal as the cook was itself mirred in controversy. Pappal was transferred to another school last month after the parents of children of Gounder community had opposed to her appointment and exerted pressure on the authorities concerned to shift her. On Monday, Pappal’s husband petitioned the district administration in Tirupur and sought police protection over family’s safety.
However, after the matter reached higher officials, she was reinstated at the school and cases were registered against 87 people in connection with the incident. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has also taken cognisance of the matter and sought explanation on the ‘humiliation’ meted out to the Dalit woman.
Chief Educational Officer S Shanthi and senior district, health and police officials have been tasked to investigate the suspected food poisoning, police said. The incident comes on the heels of a similar case in Uttar Pradesh, where a 13-year-old Dalit girl has been accused of poisoning the school’s mid-day meal. However, it has also emerged that it might be a case of an elder sister trying to avenge the death of her brother during a scuffle with a Yadav boy.