Cooks paid less than wagers

CHANDIGARH: For Maya Rani, an employee of government school, Rampura Phul, Punjab government’s claims of employee welfare mean nothing. Her burn injuries, caused by fire while cooking mid-day meal for school children in Rampur Phul, have not yet healed and government indifference to her ordeal, and many others like her, has only added salt to the wounds.

Maya was among the over 3,000 protesting contractual employees of Punjab education department, who were agitating for basic rights. Lack of basic facilities in government schools for cooking food, served as children’s mid-day meal, has put the women’s life in peril, they said. After the agitation, the government claimed in a statement that it was “sensitive and committed” to the welfare of people.

Terming the government tactics as “sham”, Harjinder Kaur, president of Democratic Mid-day Meal Cooks’ Union, said, “All this talk of commitment is a farce. On one hand, the government is making sweeping claims about employee welfare. On the other, they are stealing from our pockets. We get paid just Rs 1,000 per month for putting in six hours of work. This is less than even government’s daily wages for laborers.

Worse still, suddenly, the pay has been reduced to just Rs 750,” Harjinder said. “A large number of schools have no proper kitchens or infrastructure. My clothes caught fire from the make-shift burner we had made to cook food. I suffered nearly 50% burns, but neither the education department nor any government representative extended any help,” said Maya Rani.

“There are at least eight to ten such cases where women have sustained burn injuries and almost lost their lives. The latest incident was in Fatehgarh Sahib. The state government is deaf to our pleas and not interested in addressing our genuine demands,” said Harjinder Kaur. The SAD-BJP state government had not sent a single official to receive the memorandum by nearly 4,000- strong group of protestors in Mohali last week.

Agitated, the employees, mostly women, had hung the memorandum on a tree and shooed away officials who arrived several hours late to receive the list of demands. The protest had generated much heat forcing chief minister PS Badal to intervene and send his principal secretary DS Guru to pacify the protesting women.


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