Thousands of midday meal cooks staged a chakka jam in Bihar on Monday, February 4, demanding minimum wage and other benefits like social security and labour laws. The chakka jam disrupted road traffic in both rural and urban areas.
The striking workers, which include mostly women, took to the streets to protest against the Nitish Kumar-led state government’s apathy to their 15 points demand charter.
About 2.48 lakh midday meal cooks are on indefinite strike since January 7 across the state. The call for chakka jam was given last month following the government’s failure to fulfill their demands even after it was assured to a delegation of leaders of unions.
Also Read: https://www.newsclick.in/bihar-govt-issues-ultimatum-protesting-midday-meal-cooks-protests-intensify
It is a coincidence that two days ago, the opposition Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) had given a call for 'Bihar Bandh' on February 4 in protest against police baton charge on the party chief Upendra Kushwaha, former union minister, who had quit the BJP-led NDA last year. As a result, the chakka jam of the protesting midday meal cooks got support from the RLSP workers too. Kushwaha was injured and is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Patna.
The RLSP’s bandh was supported by the Grand Alliance of Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and Hindustani Awam Morcha.
Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) leader Vinod Kumar who is also the president of Bihar Rajya Midday Meal Workers’ Union told NewsClick that midday meal cooks have staged chakka jam from panchayats to blocks and district headquarters. It was a protest with a difference as midday meal cooks, mainly women blocked roads, state highways to national highways across the state. This protest has exposed the double standards of the Nitish Kumar-led government on much-hyped women empowerment.”
Manoj Kumar Chandravansi, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] leader said, “Different organisations of left parties have supported and joined the chakka jam by midday meal cooks. The protesting workers have blocked roads and gheraoed the office of the director of Midday Day Meal in Patna.”
Rampart and Saroj Choubey, both leaders of the protesting cooks, said that the MDM director has informed a delegation of cooks that within two days he will talk to the Bihar Education Minister for fulfilling their demands.
The ongoing indefinite strike by cooks has deprived more than one crore school children, mostly from poor families, of nutritious meals due to the stubborn attitude of the state government. It has had direct impact on the attendance in the government-run schools. According to the government data, there are 71,000 primary and middle schools in Bihar, which are serving midday meals to 1.20 crore children.
Also Read: Indefinite Strike by 2 Lakh Mid-Day Meal Cooks Hits Attendance in Bihar Schools
Last month, braving bad weather, thousands of Bihar midday meal cook had staged a protest in Patna on January 23 and 24.
The striking cooks said that they have been fighting for their rights for a long time – for higher honorarium, government employee status, and minimum wage of Rs.18,000 per month till they are declared government employees. Last year too, the cooks had staged a protest in Patna and at other places in the state.