Around 2.18 lakh cooks engaged for the midday meal (MDM) scheme in primary and middle government schools across Bihar have been on an indefinite strike since January 7, calling for an increase in wages, and demanding that they be paid wages for all 12 months.
Currently, the cooks, who have been engaged on a part-time, contract basis, earn Rs 1,250 per month for 10 months a year.
Agitating under the banner of the Bihar Rajya Madhayan Bhojan Rasoiya Sankukt Sangharsh Samiti, the cooks say they work for six to eight hours, and getting only Rs 1,250 per month amounts to a violation of labour laws.
Asha Kumari, a member of the cooks’ association from Munger, said, “Over past few years, the salary of contract teachers and the honorarium of ASHA members have gone up. We are the only group whose wages has not increased.Ours is not a part-time job.”
The strike has been supported by several trade unions, including the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU), the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), and the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU).
MDM deputy director Jeevendra Jha told The Indian Express: “ We are paying a cook Rs 250 per month and the Centre gives Rs 1,000 per month. We have been writing to Centre for some time about the cooks’ demands. We hope it is taken up by the Centre.”