KORAPUT: Hundreds of orphans in tribal-dominated Koraput district are deprived of admission to ‘sevashrams’, residential schools run by the state government for SC-ST students, for want of proper guidelines from the government regarding the identification of their caste.
“It’s a major challenge. These orphans are ‘casteless’ of sorts and, as such, deprived of various benefits meant for tribal children,” regretted Sanjit Patnaik, secretary of SOVA, a voluntary organisation running an orphanage at Chappar village in Koraput.
According to Patnaik, every such government-run school asks for the the caste certificate when his organisation takes an orphan for admission. “Even the Right to Education Act is silent on orphans,” he said.
Several orphans, who cleared the recent entrance test for admission to Class VI at the government-run model residential schools in rural areas which offer education in English medium, are forced to join these schools as general category students. “And as general category students, they are denied benefits meant for backward category students,” Patnaik said.
Koraput district welfare officer Trinath Rao admitted that caste certificate was a must for a student to get accommodation at ‘sevashrams’. “That’s a standing order of the government,” he said and added a student sans a caste certificate could join the ‘sevashrams’ but only as a day scholar.
Experts say Koraput’s is not an isolated case and similar is the scenario across the state. While the Odisha government has never issued proper guidelines to determine the caste of an orphan, the government in bordering Andhra Pradesh passed an order as early as August 2010, extending benefits of scholarships and fee reimbursement on a par with SC students to the orphans whose caste status is not known.
Koraput is a scheduled area, where more than 50% of the population is tribal. The Koraput orphans should, therefore, be given the ST status,” Patnaik pleaded.
When contacted, Koraput collector Jaya Kumar V said he would look into the matter. “The administration will try to admit eligible orphaned students to the model schools of the district,” the collector said.