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Translated from the original Malayalam report in Janmabhumi daily dated 27 July 2013
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Malabar Schools Stop Mid-day Meals.
Cut Short School Hours
Trivandrum: Citing Ramzan fast as reasons, Government schools in Malabar region have stopped Mid-day meal Scheme. Since it is fasting period putting the academic calendar into disarray, the school timings have been pruned too. The school hours have been changed from 10am to 4pm. It is the Union Government’s policy to serve Mid-day meals in every Government and Government Aided Schools across all states and includes beneficiaries irrespective of Caste or Religion. It is not just Muslim students who study in Government schools. This special policy for Malabar Schools, like in Islamic Countries, to deny Mid-day meals to beneficiaries belonging to other faiths when Muslim Students are fasting has been sanctioned by the Education Department. Since the beginning of Ramzan fast, a majority the Government schools in Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur, Kasargod districts, have stopped mid-day meal scheme. This has affected Non-Muslim student population. Students of other communities have been informed school authorities & PTA office bearers that Mid day meals will not be served till end of Ramzan in view of fast being observed by Muslim students. Challenging of this decision some PTA office bearers and guardians has been futile. No action has been taken despite sending a written complaint & representation to the Minister’s Secretariat. There are some schools in places like Thiruangadi, Vengara, Thennala, Mancheri, Cherumanna, Thanoor & Vanimel where school fuctions to Islamic calendar. These schools declare holidays for a period of a month during Ramazan every year. It has been declared this year too. Majority of students here may belong to Muslim community, it follows general academic calendar and systems. Stopping of Mid-day meals and reduction in school hours has been effected without addressing concerns of non-muslim students studying here. Though the decision of these Government Schools is to function between 9am and 3pm or 10am to 4pm, after onset of Ramzan period, these schools suspend classes b efore lunch hours. They also don’t conduct classes on Fridays. In places like Nadapuram, Kinaserry, Pookunnu, Kotiyathur, Koombara it has been reportedly alleged that some hardcore believers have taken over administration of some schools and are attempting to strictly enforce Islamic rules & systems. Despite lodging an official complaint with relevant authorities the department adapted stance that was beneficial to these extreme elements. State BJP President, V Muralidharan has alleged that changing school timings in Malabar region in the name of Ramzan is against the law and blatant attempt at religious appeasement. The Education Department implements the Mid-day meal scheme in schools & after the Ramzan fasting season began it has decided that that Mid-day meals need not be served for students of other community too. Schools are not empowered to change timings. If and when other religions celebrate festivals and observe fasts and demand such leniency, it may have to be sanctioned. If the academic calendars are subjected to changed based on religious needs, it would be upset the Academic calendar & system, said Muralidharan R Pradeep

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