Gopalganj District Magistrate by the name of Rahul Kumar had lunch at the government school in Kalyanpur village of Barauli in the district along with many school children.
The DM, who is the senior-most government officer in the district, usually eats lunch in the office. But DM Rahul Kumar knew exactly what he was doing as he did with a purpose and broke the superstition to prove to village people that a widowed cook cannot be a “bad omen”.
The 36-year-old widow, identified as Sunita Kunwar had been prevented from cooking mid-day meals at the school just because villagers felt she was a “bad omen” and that would bring bad outcomes.
To keep her job, Sunita Kunwar met DM Rahul Kumar and explained her case. After understanding the whole story, DM Rahul Kumar promised her the administration’s full support and assistance and then asked her to rejoin work.
“I am being victimised as I am a widow… I have to look after my two minor children. I am fighting my battle alone and running from one office to another to get justice for the past 21 months,” Sunita told The Telegraph after meeting District Magistrate Rahul Kumar at his weekly Janata Darbar.
Again to prevent her return to a normal position, as many as 150 people stormed the school and then forced both students and teachers out.
They locked the school with immediate effect and also denied mid-day meals to the students, after which they shouted slogans against the local authorities for permitting the space for the widow to work.
But Kalyanpur village residents, mainly Rajput, threatened her. “We will not allow a widow to prepare mid-day meal for our kids. This is a bad omen. We fear a repeat of Gandaman incident in neighbouring Saran district where 23 children died after eating a contaminated meal in 2013,” a Kalyanpur resident identified as Shiv Bihari Singh told The Telegraph.
Sunita is one of the six cooks in the school who prepares midday meals for 734 students. For Sunita, feeling the hungry stomachs is a great sense of accomplishment. In January 2014, some villagers who helped Sunita get the monthly Rs 1,000 job about 5 years ago suddenly started questioning her character, a charge which Sunita denies.
Sunita’s relatives, in-laws, refused to come to her assistance.
In the agitated situation in the village, the District Magistrate Rahul Kumar landed up at the school and then asked Sunita Kunwar to serve him whatever she had cooked.
Rahul Kumar also posted tweets with pictures of him eating a meal cooked by the widow.
“Sometimes you do symbolic things to overcome people’s beliefs,” he tweeted.