School cooking labourers’ federation raises demands

The State government should take extra care to ensure all-round hygiene in the midday meal programme in schools in the backdrop of the recent tragedy in Bihar which claimed 23 lives, the Kerala State School Cooking Labourers Federation has said.

Federation president V.P. Kunhikrishnan said here on Sunday the condition of kitchens in most schools was deplorable.

The federation would take out a march to the Secretariat and stage a dharna there on August 24 seeking an Onam allowance of Rs.5,000.

The patent-teacher associations or the government were not taking any steps in this regard though it had a direct bearing on the health of children. To avert possible tragedies, the government should take immediate steps to better the condition of kitchens, he said.

Schools should be allowed LPG connections. Those engaged in cooking and other kitchen work should be given uniforms and the District Education Officers should ensure the quality of the food cooked. The food should be tested by the head of the institution before being given to children and teachers should also take food along with the children, Mr. Kunhikrishnan said.

The raw materials supplied for midday meal scheme was often found to be low. The rice and lentil given from Maveli Stores are often spoilt and inedible. The labourers had often brought this to the attention of the authorities. Henceforth, cooking would be suspended if the items supplied were of inferior quality, he said.

The workload of labourers was very high. It was impossible for a single labourer to take care of 500 students, which was the norm now. The ratio should be reduced to 1:250. The salary of labourers should be raised to Rs.10,000 a month and should be distributed through banks to avoid malpractices, he said.

The midday meal scheme could be made foolproof only if the labourers were paid on time, he added.