1.2 crore children affected as protest in Bihar over mid-day meal intensifies
The ongoing indefinite strike by 2.48 lakh mid-day meal cooks has deprived more than one crore school children of nutritious meals. It has resulted in the direct impact on the attendance in the government-run schools.
New Delhi, Feb 4: After month-long protests by Bihar’s mid-day meal cooks, the state government on Monday issued a stern circular stating that they should not be paid for the duration of the strike, and if they fail to immediately join work, they should be removed, and alternative arrangements be made.
The immediate fallout of the move resulted in more cooks joining the protest, further spiking the number of children not attending school due to no food being provided.
Binod Kumar Singh, special secretary, Department of Education, and director of Mid-day Meal Bihar said, “The circular makes it compulsory for them to get back to work or else we will start looking for replacements.”
The ongoing indefinite strike by 2.48 lakh mid-day meal cooks since January 7 across the state, has deprived more than one crore school children, mostly from poor families, of nutritious meals. It has resulted in the 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 serve midday meals to 1.2 crore children.
“Yes, mid-day meal is no longer being provided to the children in our schools as cooks are on an indefinite strike. Less than 50 percent children are coming to school now because midday meals used to be a big attraction for them,” said Saroj Kumar Singh, a teacher from a school in Naubatpur block.
Another teacher, Dinesh Kumar from a school in Vaishali district, too, admitted that the ongoing strike by the mid-day meal cooks has hit the children in the schools badly. “The state government should not be adamant, and should listen to the striking cooks as soon as possible,” he opined.
“Striking mid-day meal cooks will stage a chakka jam in Bihar on February 4 to protest against government’s stubborn attitude towards them,” said CITU leader Vinod Kumar, president of Bihar Rajya Midday Meal Workers’ Union.
Last month, thousands of Bihar midday meal cooks — mostly women — staged a protest in Patna on January 23 and 24, demanding minimum wage and other benefits like social security and labour laws.
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.