Mid-day meal cooks in Kerala to suspend work, seek steps to release pending salary

November 18, 2023 06:42 pm | Updated November 19, 2023 06:54 am IST - KOCHI

Cooks who prepare the mid-day meals in schools march in protest to Kanayannur Taluk office in the city on Saturday.

Cooks who prepare the mid-day meals in schools march in protest to Kanayannur Taluk office in the city on Saturday. | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

The mid-day meal cooks affiliated to the School Pachaka Thozhilali Union of the All Indian Trade Union Congress (AITUC) of the Communist Party of India (CPI) have threatened to suspend work unless their long-pending demands are addressed by the government.

They staged a protest in Kochi on Saturday demanding that the government take immediate steps to release their pending salary, as promised by the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, and retirement benefits.

As per official estimates, there are over 13,000 mid-day meal cooks in schools across the State. They are entitled to get a daily honorarium of ₹600. P.G. Mohanan, State secretary of the union, said the total number of mid-day meal cooks in the State would come to around 20,000.

“Though the ratio fixed by the authorities is one cook for 500 students, it is impossible for a person to cook for such a large number of students and hence they employ additional help by sharing their daily wages. Though the previous government had notified minimum wages for the workers, it has not been implemented,” he said.

The mid-day meal scheme is being funded by the Central and State governments at a ratio of 60:40. Mr. Mohanan said the State government had recovered ₹1,000 from the monthly salary of the cooks in October, claiming that the Centre had not released its share. “The recent decision to entrust school protection committees with the responsibility of mobilising funds for the mid-day meal scheme will only result in derailing the project,” he added.

Anitha Appukuttan, Ernakulam district secretary of the AITUC union, said many were yet to receive the salary for September and October. “We have no other option but to protest on the streets as life has become difficult for us. We also do not have benefits such as provident fund and insurance. Despite assurances made earlier, the government has not notified the minimum wages for us,” she said.

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