Midday meal workers threaten to launch strike from December 2

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BANGALORE, November 3:  Over 1.04 lakh midday meal workers are planning to launch an indefinite strike across the State from December 2 demanding salary hike, among other benefits.

They said though they were the ones implementing the government’s ambitious projects of providing milk and midday meals to over 55 lakh schoolchildren in government and government-aided schools, they had been neglected.

While midday meal head cooks are paid Rs. 1,100 a month, assistant cooks Rs. 1,000 a month, their salaries have not been revised since 2009. Siddamma who works in a government school in Hungund taluk of Bagalkot district said, “The Chief Minister seems to be concerned about government schoolchildren, but has turned a blind eye to our problems.”

Mariamma, who works at a government school in Deodurg taluk of Raichur district, said that earlier they would begin work at 10 am, but now they had to start their day at 8.30 a.m. “We can’t even take up an additional job as our work hours have been extended… We don’t have enough money to buy groceries for our family, let alone pay rent and take care of other expenses,” she said. Added to this is the delay in payment of salaries. Mariamma said she gets paid once in two or three months.

After the death of three children (two students and a son of a midday meal worker) who fell into vessels containing hot sambar in government schools, the government issued a circular. Some of the guidelines issued by the Department of Public Instruction included serving food in small vessels, and supervision and monitoring of children while they were eating food.

Karnataka Rajya Akshara Dasoha Naukarara Sangha State president S. Varalakshmi said several memorandums presented to the authorities had gone in vain. The workers’ main demand is minimum salary of Rs. 3,000. “We will start our strike on December 2 and make alternative arrangements for three days. If the government does not heed our demand, we will stop making food from December 5.”

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Kimmane Ratnakar said there were plans to increase the salary of midday meal workers, but Chief Minister Siddaramiah would take a final call on it.

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