Students at around 1,250 government schools were not served midday meal in the district on Thursday with the members of Midday Meal Office Workers Front and Midday Cook Workers Union holding a protest outside the deputy commissioner’s office.
The workers were protesting against the state government for not fulfilling their demands, which include increase in salaries and regularisation of posts.
Raising slogans against the Punjab chief minister and the deputy chief minister, the office employees working under the Punjab State Midday Meal Society have been demanding regularisation of their jobs and hike in salaries of cooks and workers.
Praveen Sharma, the state president of the union, said the state government had revised the pay grade of those working under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) on April 1 this year but it has not been done for midday meal workers.
“Although SSA, RMSA staff started working at the same time as we did, but we get peanuts in the name of salaries,” he said.
“The government should follow the same-work same-pay formula. We are doing similar work from completing file works to visiting schools.We should be given equal pay as per SSA, RMSA employees,” said Swaran Singh, district president of the union.
Workers involved in cooking, district presidents of the union and assistant block managers were present on the occasion. They said they were being paid Rs 9,500 per month since 2009 while SSA and RMSA workers are getting over Rs 20,000.
The protesters also said staff responsible for preparing midday meal were paid `1,200 per month and were not even being paid during vacation period.
Sarwan Singh, district president of the union, said, “They are paid only for ten months. The state government doesn’t provide salary to cooks for the month of June and December. We request the state government to provide them salary for 12 months”.
“We will take up our demands with Punjab education minister Daljit Singh Cheema during a meeting fixed on December 29,” Sharma said.
He further said they will hold a zone-level rally if the demands are not fulfilled and will decide the next course of action on December 29.
The members handed over the memorandum of their demands to former minister Manoranjan Kalia.
Rattan Lal, midday meal manager, said a letter was issued in this regard to all school heads on Wednesday to arrange midday meal for students on Thursday and had also asked cook workers to go on strike after preparing the food.
“It was reported that teachers prepared food in many schools while in some they arranged some people to prepare the food,” he added.