SCORES of Mid-Day Meal workers held a march to parliament on August 5, in support of their demands including immediate implementation of the declared increase of Rs 1,000 in honorarium and regularisation of jobs of nearly 26 lakh such workers with provision for pension.
Nearly 5,000 Mid-Day Meal workers from across the country, under the aegis of the CITU-affiliated All India Coordination Committee of Mid-Day Meal Workers (AICCMDMW), gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for the march. Later, a delegation, led by CITU general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP, Tapan Sen and AICCMDMW convener A R Sindhu, submitted a memorandum to human resources development minister Smriti Irani, who assured the delegation that she will look into the matter positively.
Nearly 26 lakh Mid-Day Meal workers are not recognised as workers and are paid a pittance of Rs 1,000 a month and that too only for ten months in a year. They are not provided any social security. The government is not ready to implement the 45th Indian Labour Conference recommendations that the Mid-Day Meal workers be recognised as workers, paid minimum wages and social security including pension.
The HRD ministry declared as early in May 2013 that the remuneration of the Mid-Day Meal workers will be enhanced by Rs 1,000 per month. Despite repeated promises, this was not implemented by the UPA government. The minister for HRD of the new NDA government also promised, during a meeting in July, that this enhancement would be implemented early but this year’s union budget has neglected the workers as well as the scheme. “It is unfortunate that the union budget 2014-15 did not reflect either aspirations of the Mid-Day Meal Workers or the need for infrastructure, quality and management needs of the scheme,” the AICCMDMW said in its memorandum to the HRD minister.
The AICCMDMW’s demands include immediate implementation of the declared increase of Rs 1,000 in honorarium with effect from April 1, 2013; Implementation of the 45th Indian Labour Conference recommendations – regularistion, minimum wages and pension; Payment of remuneration for all 12 months through ‘zero balance bank account’; And 180 days’ paid maternity wages. The workers also asked the government to stop privatisation of Mid-Day Meal Scheme by handing over to corporate NGOs and to ensure safety of Mid-Day Meal workers and provide medical insurance.
Mid-Day Meal workers from several states including Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telengana, UP, Uttarakhand and West Bengal participated in the march.
The march was inaugurated by CITU president A K Padmanabhan at Jantar Mantar. He called upon the workers to intensify their struggles to change the policies of the government. CITU general secretary Tapan Sen assured the gathering that CITU would take forward the struggle of Mid-Day Meal workers. Sen called upon the workers to expose the politics behind the policies and mobilise people against it. CPI(M) MPs P Karunakaran and P K Sreemati assured the gathering that the struggle inside parliament by the Left parties will echo the struggle outside parliament by the working class. Student Federation of India (SFI) president V Sivadasn and All India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) president Sudha Sundararaman also expressed solidarity to the struggle of the Mid-Day Meal workers. Leaders from different states also addressed the gathering.
The workers marching towards parliament were stopped by police on Parliament Street. The workers warned the government against intensified agitations during the winter session of parliament if their demands were not met at the earliest.