Published: 23rd January 2020
Serving food to lakhs of kids in Karnataka, why are mid-day meal workers paid peanuts?
What if mid-day meal workers at schools go on long leave? The kids in Karnataka State got to witness a glimpse of this situation when thousands of mid-day meal workers protested for two days
After protesting for more than 12 hours, the mid-day meal workers had to return home with none of their demands being fulfilled by the state government. They have been given a tentative date of January 28 to meet S Suresh Kumar, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education and Uma Shankar S R, Prinicpal Secretary. While there are more one lakh mid-day meal workers across the state, around 6,000 of them had gathered since Tuesday morning at Bengaluru's Freedom Park demanding that the state government must consider increasing their salaries. Shylaja M, Vice-President, Karnataka state Mid-Day Meal Workers Federation says, "We had planned to continue our protest for a few more days but the police department had given us the permission to protest only for a day. When we tried to meet the Prinicpal Secretary as well as the Education Minister, they were not available for the meeting."
Explaining the plight of the workers, she says, "For the past ten years, we have been paid a very low income. Earlier, it was Rs 1,100 and only five years ago, it was increased to Rs 2,700 per month. I feel that the bureaucrats who form these policies are brilliant because they don't consider us as formal workers of the state government. Since the mid-day meal is a government scheme, the government considers us as scheme workers. As a result of this, we are not provided with facilities like PF, pension scheme or Employees State Insurance Scheme for health benefits. With the increase in the cost of basic facilities, the workers cannot afford to manage their family expenses. Hence our primary demand is that the government must increase their salaries and also provide us with ESI and pension benefits."
Shylaja has seen that the condition of the mid-day meal workers is the same across the country. "When compared to other states, it is only Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh who pay these workers a little more money. While we are paid Rs 2,700, Andhra Pradesh pays Rs 3,000 and Chhattisgarh pays Rs 3,500 to its workers. We aren't demanding that our salaries should be in lakhs but a decent salary to lead our lives will be a motivation to do more work for children and the government schools," says Shylaja who hopes that the government will consider their demands.