To be a Dalit and a widow could be disastrous. For 36-year-old Urmila Devi, who lost her husband a couple of years ago, the combination led to dismissal from her job as a government school cook in Bihar’s Aurangabad district.
Her story has a happy ending, however, and a young IAS officer got her reinstated just 12 hours after she narrated her story to him.
He then had a meal that she cooked, in the same school, along with the students.
Kanwal Tanuj, the District Magistrate, listened to Ms. Devi’s story on Monday evening. She had been dismissed from her job by the principal ‘for being a Dalit widow.’
The principal, Shiv Govind Prasad, had given her job to Ramkeval Yadav.
Mr. Tanuj decided to verify the incident the very next day and made the 45-km trip to Batura Middle School in Rafiganj block. During the visit, he found many discrepancies in the registers. The principal, who could not answer his queries, was suspended.
The officer of the 2010 batch ordered Education Department officials to reinstate Ms. Devi and requested her to cook food in the school kitchen as she used to.
Soon, the magistrate was sitting cross-legged on the verandah and relishing the meal with students, even as awestruck villagers watched.
“It was a natural reaction from a human being and not an IAS officer to act upon the complaint of a Dalit widow. I did what my conscience told me to,” Mr. Tanuj told The Hindu.
The principal said he was being falsely implicated in a two-year-old case due to a “conspiracy.”