Patna, January 20: The indefinite strike called by mid-day meal cooks, also known as Rasoiya, in Bihar continued on Sunday, with thousands of protesters hitting streets in different parts of the state. Over 5 lakh mid-day meal cooks have been on indefinite strike for a hike in their wages and status of government employees. The Bihar Rasoiya strike affected attendance in schools as students didn't turn up because there was no food for them.

The mid-day meal cooks started their indefinite strike on January 7, under the banner of Bihar Rajya Madhayan Bhojan Rasoiya Sanyukt Sangarsh Samiti. Many trade unions, including Left labour outfits, have extended their support to Rasoiyas' protests. Their demands include a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 and government employee status be given to them. Vinod Kumar, president of Bihar Rajya Midday Meal Workers Union, said the government pays only Rs 1,000 a month to 2,48,000 cooks in over 70,000 government primary and middle schools in the state. Bihar: 50 School children Fall Ill After Mid-day Meal in East Champaran.

"It is unbelievable that they are getting less than the official minimum wages of a worker despite the fact that they are skilled workers. What is a matter of serious violation of social security and labour laws is that they have not been given any appointment letter or any document despite working for over 10 years," he told Newsclick. Saroj Choubey, who is state president of Bihar Rajya Vidhalya Rasoiya Sangh, said the Nitish Kumar government was not ready to pay heed even as the issue was related to women.

"About 90 per cent cooks are women in Bihar. Most of them, particularly women are widows and BPL (below poverty line) category from the marginalised and depressed sections of society. They belong to the poorest of the poor background but the government is treating them badly. Other than them, who will work for Rs 33 per day?" she was quoted as saying. Sona Devi, a cook at Bankipur middle school in Fatuha in Patna district, said Rasoiyas were deprived of their basic needs due to low income.

"We work hard, like mothers, to prepare dishes for the noon meal under the mid-day meal scheme, but are neglected and ignored. We have been forced to struggle for basic necessities. We are not even getting minimum wage of a worker as per government own rule," she said.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jan 20, 2019 07:03 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website