Midday Meal Workers Begging for Food to Cook for Children
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Rachel Dammala
Hyderabad: Despite the honorarium of midday meal scheme workers being increased from 1,000 per month to 3,000 per month in 2022, workers allege that they are still being paid only 1,000. They complained that even basic cooking costs aren't being met with the money given.
It was on March 15, 2022, that Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao had announced in the Assembly that the honorarium of 54,201 workers engaged in the midday meal scheme would be increased to 3,000 per month.
"A government order on the same was passed more than five months back but none of us has received any hike. It was all done just inside a room and on paper," said Narappa, a midday meal scheme worker.
"Going by the revised menu, a meal costs 15 per child but we have been only 5.45 each. We haven't received the basic costs for nine months now and are stuck between the State and Centre tussle as they have to give 60:40 per cent of the money," said Chamanti Laxmi, president of the Nizamabad midday meal workers association.
"Lives of little children are in danger. We're forced to beg for something as basic as a meal, which is their right. The vessels were given to us some 15 years ago and they are no longer usable. We have asked neighbours and villagers and brought some from our own houses," said Gouri, another worker.
Some of these self-help groups were forced to borrow money from whoever they knew to meet the cooking needs.
"We know we can't play with the lives of these children in their formative years, just because a promise made to us was not kept. And the prices of vegetables have skyrocketed with staples like tomatoes and chillies costing not less than 120 per kg," said Monavva, a worker from Nirmal district.
Many complained that as if the deficit wasn't enough, the revised menu caused an additional burden.
"The khichdi, the raagi java, eggs on alternate days, dal every day - we'd love to cook it all, but sourcing them and making them costs more than normal," said Sulochana from Ibrahimpatnam.
Until the previous academic year, the menu included only rice, vegetable curry, sambar, dal, and vegetable biryani.
The honorarium is the pay apart from the cooking costs that the government gives to cooks. Some alleged that for three months, money was not being given to meet the cooking costs.
The mid-day meal scheme workers of Bhadradri Kothagudem district had staged a dharna in early June but gave up when the academic year began. The workers from across the state now plan to hold a strike on July 10-12 at mandal offices in their respective districts.