The workers want monthly salaries to be made Rs. 5,200. They also want funds allotted to the scheme to be upped

Noon meal scheme workers will wear black badges on Friday to protest the government’s inattention to their plight. The workers are upset that despite Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s promise in the election manifesto and the announcement she recently made in the Assembly about hiking their pensions, this has still not been implemented.

A total of 42,000 employees will participate in the protest.

The workers however said that in each school, one employee will prepare and distribute the meals while the rest would participate in the protest.

Apart from a hike in pensions, the workers are demanding better salaries and an increase in the funds allotted for the noon meal scheme.

At present, the government spends 69.5 paise per child in primary school and 79.5 paise per child in middle and high school.

“For 100 children, we get 10 kg of rice, 1.5 kg of dhal and 3 kg of vegetables but the money we get to buy firewood is not enough. A kilo of firewood costs Rs. 6 and with the money allotted by the government — Rs. 24 for 100 children — we can buy only 4 kg when we need 15 kg,” said P. Peyadavan, state secretary of the Tamil Nadu Noon Meal Employees’ Association.

The fund has also not taken into consideration the cost of boiling eggs, which are served five times a week, as well as the cost of serving boiled dhal on Tuesdays, the workers say.

Also, the government mandates that potatoes be served on Fridays.

“Officials have instructed us to buy potatoes at Rs. 8 a kg but nowhere can we buy at that price,” Mr. Peyadevan said.

“We are expected to serve sweet pongal on the birth anniversary of MGR, Annadurai and Kamaraj. Though we are provided 80 grams of rice per child for the occasion, we are expected to buy jaggery for Rs. 33. There is no provision for fuel either,” he added.

The employees want a hike from the current salary of Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 5,200 a month. “If this is done, then a person who has put in 20 years of service will earn around Rs. 7,500 per month,” said P. Sundarammal, an office-bearer of the association.

“Many of us have been working without promotions for 30 years now. On May 7 we had a meeting with social welfare secretary Basheer Ahamed and minister B. Valarmathi. They promised us they would discuss the issue with the CM, but nothing has happened,” she said.

The workers also said around 25,000 posts have fallen vacant due to retirements recently, but have not been filled.

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