70,000 Bihar school suffers mid-day meal strike; cooks demand salary hike
New Delhi : More than 2 lakh cooks engaged with the Midday Meal Scheme (MDM) went for an indefinite strike since 7 January 2019. Report states that over 70,000 primary and middle schools of Bihar are not running the government lunch at schools, thereby, affecting the student's attendance.
Sources say that the cook in Bihar gets Rs 1,250 per month, while in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, MDM cooks are paid over 4,000 per month. Henceforth, the MDM cooks under Bihar government have have been demanding an increment in their wages citing labour law violations.
Recently, over 2.18 lakh cooks have engaged themselves in part-time contract jobs since 7 January when they called for a stirke to compel government to fulfil the demand of increase in wages, payment of wages on a 12-month basis as opposed to the current 10 working months wage system.
The MDM cooks in Bihar have been protesting at blocks and district offices. They have a given call for a strike under the banner of Bihar Rajya Madhyan Bhojan Rasoiya Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, which is being supported by trade unions, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU).
The cooks’ association said cooks had to work for six to eight hours and a cook getting Rs 1,250 amounted to a violation of the labour law.
Asha Kumari, a member of the cooks association from Munger, said, “Over the past few years, the salary of contract teachers and an honorarium of ASHA have gone up. We are the only group whose wages have not increased. Ours is not a part-time job”.
RK Singh, a teacher at a primary school in Banka district, said that student’s attendance in the school had gone down by 10 to 20 per cent.” We are under pressure to look for alternatives, which are not easily possible”.
MDM deputy director Jeevendra Jha, however, told media "MDM is a central government scheme. We are paying a cook Rs 250 per month and the Centre gives each cook Rs 1,000 per month. We have been writing to the Centre for some time about the cooks’ demands. We hope it is taken up by Centre in its next cabinet meeting”.
When asked why Bihar cannot increase cooks' wages, he said “Let the Centre take its call first. We cannot commit anything at this stage”.