The midday meal cooks from Ludhiana district objected to the recent order of the district education office (DEO), asking them to get their health check-ups done from the Civil Hospital and get fitness certificates.
The step has drawn sharp criticism after the cooks, almost 3,200 in government schools of Ludhiana, were being charged Rs 830 for the tests and an additional Rs 100-200 for filling the preliminary form at the Civil Surgeon’s office.
This, when the cooks are getting only Rs 1,200 as a monthly allowance and they spent money on travelling to Ludhiana from various villages and the surrounding areas.
The cooks protested and refused to pay the sum on Thursday after which DEO (primary) Gurjot Singh cancelled the order to get the check-up done till January 12, and said that the deputy commissioner would issue fresh orders in the coming days. Till then no check-ups would be done.
A source in the education department told Ludhiana Newsline that in a letter, dated January 1 this year, the DEO (elementary) ordered that all cooks need to get their medical check-up done by January 12. However, it was not mentioned that how check-up of all 3,200 cooks could be done at the Civil Hospital due to lack of adequate arrangements.
As a result, the cooks started thronging the civil surgeon office at Fountain Chowk to get forms and were being charged Rs 100-200 to fill out that form. Further, they were asked to deposit Rs 830 for getting tests done at the Civil Hospital.
The cooks objected and the DEO on January 7 wrote another letter to the deputy commissioner, saying that “cooks are facing multiple problems in getting check-up done at Civil Hospital, Ludhiana, and the same has been communicated to Civil Surgeon on phone”.
DEO (primary) Gurjot Singh told Ludhiana Newsline that “he recommended to DC that arrangements for this check-up be made at block and tehsil level in primary health centres as it is not possible for all 3,200 cooks from faraway villages to travel to city, and they will be hassled”.
“The medical check-up is done when one gets permanent government job. We are being paid Rs 1,200 only for cooking food, and we also do other works like mopping and cleaning. Salaries never arrive on time and now we are being asked to pay Rs 830 for tests,” said one of the cooks.
Asked why check-ups were being done, the DEO said, “It is important to check the health status of cooks who make food for thousands of children as per guidelines of Central government for midday meal.”
Tarsem Singh Jodhan, former CPM MLA, said, “These poor cooks were being looted at civil surgeon office and illegal agents were demanding Rs 100-200 for filling their forms as they are illiterate. Their jobs are not regularised and half the time allowance of Rs 1,200 also does not come in time.”