Meghraj Khinchi is a PhD student in the India Institute. His research interest is informed by the lived experiences as a linguistic and social marginal in elite public institutions in India. He has experienced how institutions both succeed and fail as normative exemplars in India’s attempt to forge social fraternity against the improbable odds of its hierarchical social divisions.
Meghraj’s academic interest is in the career of caste in contemporary India. It first piqued during his postgraduate studies at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, where he researched the drivers of caste discrimination in India’s mid-day meals programme within his dissertation. His research uncovered the key drivers of caste segregation in the world’s largest school feeding programme that plays a pivotal role in keeping marginalized students in school.
His postgraduate dissertation provided the first systematic documentation of the defacto ‘separate but equal’ regime underlying everything from cooking to dining. He demonstrated the local spatial location of schools as a key variable influencing degree of discrimination, including who cooks in the school and what is cooked in the school kitchen. This is not surprising as one of the constitutive features of caste is separation of residential space.
Thesis title: 'Fraternity conundrum in Contemporary India'
Meghraj is currently working on a project that uses archival data and field research to investigate caste discrimination in India’s mid-day meal programme.
The mid-day meals program at government-run schools in India is among the largest nutrition and education programmes anywhere in the world and is central to sustaining school enrolment in India. However, students belonging to lower castes such as Dalits, are routinely discriminated in this programme.
Mehraj is developing a large inventory of all reported discrimination cases. His interest in the mid-day meal program is part of his broader interests of discrimination and exclusion at the interface between state and society.