UP: No payment for MDM cooks on election duty?

Workers never receive money for election work despite cooking day-long meals for polling officers

No Payment
Image Courtesy:tribuneindia.com

Gonda’s Basic Education department in Uttar Pradesh has reportedly instructed mid-day meal (MDM) cooks to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for polling officers on February 26, 2022 and February 27, 2022 without any mention of payment.

“On February 26, polling officers will leave for the booths. Cooks need to be appointed from morning till evening on February 26 and 27 so that officers can have their meals,” says a circular sent by the District Basic Education Officer on February 21.

As per the document sent to district officials and school authorities, MDM cooks are to arrange for tea and biscuits for polling officers on arrival and then prepare their dinner on Saturday. Then on Sunday they have to make breakfast lunch and again arrange for tea and biscuits before departure.

The department, in detailing the exact meal for the officers, did not make any mention of payment to the cooks.

No Payment

Principals of respective schools are instructed to provide utensils, gas cylinders and stoves for these meals. Similarly, the circular also says that polling officers will bear the expenditure of these meals. These exceptions do not gloss over workers’ need for a payment, especially considering UP’s MDM cooks have been demanding pending wages for nine months!

“Officials feel they are paid too less if they are paid in hundreds of rupees. But apparently our monthly salary of ₹ 1,500 is over the top. Even that, they haven’t paid us for the last nine months,” said cook Pavan Kumar Maurya who works at Composite Vidyalaya, Tendu.

As a veteran MDM cook working since 2010, Maurya was well-aware that they would not be paid for their efforts even though cooks run around to get the ingredients that are not readily available in schools.

He condemned the government and administration that did not take any responsibility for MDM workers’ grievances. Officers seldom paid them appropriately for their work in elections. He alleged government officials and other relevant authorities are aware of this but it no mind.

“Officials should acknowledge that cooks are suffering. Some time ago, they promised to increase our salary to ₹2,000. Where is that money now? Be it any government, our situation does not change,” he said.

Maurya is not alone in voicing his grievances. MDM cooks, anganwadi workers and ASHAs everywhere have demanded an increase in payments that are delayed for months together. In Hathras, Rampur and other polling areas of previous phases, anganwadi workers said that they are not paid despite working at the respective polling area.

Issues of unemployment and inflation have already incited youth protests in UP and Bihar that sparked further complications like claims of police brutality. Given India’s economic challenges, it is crucial that the governments at the state and local levels ensure that MDM, ASHA, and other important workers are paid well and any job vacancies are filled at the earliest as their work is invaluable. 

Meanwhile, Gonda cooks prepare for polling day, hoping for payment from polling officers and other authorities.


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