On 31 March 2015, about 10,000 women protested in front of the office of the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar under the banner of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and the Bihar State School Midday Meal Workers’ Association. Women gathered at the Gandhi Maidan from all parts of Bihar to participate in the protest. They submitted a 16-point charter of demands which included declaration of midday meal workers as government employees, Rs 15,000 honorarium, and immediate payment of honorarium arrears.
The workers joined in enthusiastically with the slogans raised by AISA leaders, “Ek hazar mein dam nahin, pandrah hazar se kam nahin”. The rally was led by South Asia Solidarity Forum leader Kalpana Wilson, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, AIPWA Bihar State President Saroj Choube, AIPWA State Secretary Shashi Yadav, AIPWA Bihar Joint Secretary Anita Sinha, Prof. Bharti S Kumar, Prof. Meera Thakur, Bihar State Non-Gazetted Employees Association General Secretary Rambali Prasad, economist Meera Dutt, AIPWA Siwan Secretary Sohila Gupta, AIPWA Patna rural President Leela Verma, AIPWA Patna rural Secretary Damyanti Sinha, AIPWA Nawada Secretary Gayatri Devi, Rita Varnwal, Indu Devi, Sona Devi, Renu Devi, Savita Devi, Poonam Devi and others from the Bihar State School Midday Meal Workers’ Association. The rally reached R Block after a 3 km march.
At R Block the DM met a representative body consisting of Meena Tiwari, Saroj Choube, Shashi Yadav, Sohila Gupta, Savitri Devi, Renu Devi and Anshu Kumari who submitted the charter of 16 demands at the CM’s Secretariat. They were given an assurance that a response would be given within 2 days.
The meeting at R Block was presided over by the State Joint Secretary Anita Sinha. Addressing the meeting, the speakers said that the midday meal workers in Bihar are paid only Rs 1,000 per month. Moreover, they are not paid for 2 months in the year. They are subjected to insulting behavior from the school teachers. The speakers further said that the Bihar CM talks of women’s empowerment but the midday meal workers have been made to work for a pittance of Rs 1,000 from the year 2007, whereas according to the Resolution Number 2401 20.7.2007 of the general administration department of the Bihar government, midday meal workers should get a total salary of Rs 15,040. But at present the workers are not getting appointment letters, their signature is not taken, and the payment of the honorarium is not done into their accounts. For the same work, midday meal workers in Tamil Nadu get Rs 5500-7500; in Kerala they get Rs 4500-6000, in Puduchery they get Rs 5000-9000, and in Lakshadweep they get Rs 6000. The meeting concluded with the passing of a 7-point resolution. The need of the hour is to channelize these fast mobilizing midday-meal workers into a movement against their economic, social, and mental, and cheap labour exploitation. To channelize and politicize them is a challenge and we must accept this challenge.