PATNA: Two days after thousands of mid-day meal cooks in Bihar postponed their indefinite strike for the sake of over one crore school children, Bihar,Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a pay hike of Rs 250 for them.
Kumar has made this announcement in the ongoing budget session of the Bihar Assembly on Monday. After this announcement, midday meal (MDM) cooks who were getting Rs 1,250 per month will now get Rs 1,500 per month.
According to MDM officials here, the state government has announced a pay hike in view of 39 days of indefinite strike by cooks that badly hit the scheme in schools.
Till now the central government was giving Rs 1,000 per month to the cooks as it is a central scheme and Bihar government was paying Rs 250 per month. In total a cook was getting Rs 1,250 per month for their hard work of six to eight hours to cook fresh and hot mealsfor school children.
Vinod Kumar, president of Bihar Rajya Midday Meal Workers’ Union and a leader of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, expressed his happiness that at last government was forced to announced a pay hike.
”We had postponed the indefinite strike two days ago as it deprived lakhs of school children of midday meals but our strike and protest resulted in announcement of a pay hike to cooks, It is a small amount, but for us it is a victory because government had tried all means to suppress the indefinite strike and failed” Vinod told Newsclick here.
Vinod said their protest would continue demanding a minimum wage and other benefits under social security and labour laws. ”This pay hike for midday meal cooks is a good news for us but we will continue to protest”.
About 2.48 lakh mid-day meal cooks, locally known as rasoiya, started an indefinite strike on January 7, which badly hit the scheme in government-run schools. They agitated cooks, primarily women, said they have been fighting for their rights for a long time for higher honorarium, government employee status, and Rs 18,000 monthly wages till they are declared government employees. Last year, too, the cooks staged a protest in Patna and other places in the state.
The indefinite strike began under the banner of Bihar Rajya Madhayan Bhojan Rasoiya Sanyukt Sangarsh Samiti. It is a joint struggle of different federations and associations of mid-day meal workers supported by four trade unions -- Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), The All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU).
According to government data, there are 71,000 primary and middle schools in Bihar, which are serving midday meals to 1.20 crore children.