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Mid-day meal workers threaten stir 

Gurdaspur: Around 1,600 mid-day meal workers in the district have threatened to go on strike if school heads and principals continue to make them sit full time in schools.Workers claim that their job is to cook and serve meals and leave the school by 1 pm. However, they are being forced to sit till schools close at 3.30 pm without any concrete reason.Officials admit that the situation is the same across the state and is not confined to Gurdaspur alone. “It is just that it is more pronounced here,” said an official. Workers say they are forced to work as peons once meals are over.Salwinder Singh, DEO (Elementary), said his office had not received any complaint so far. Mamta Sharma, General Secretary, Punjab Mid-Day Meal Workers Union, said workers were not filing written complaints fearing victimisation by principals.“A principal is our appointing authority. If a worker complains she will be thrown out. That is the reason nobody is petitioning the higher authorities despite facing hardships. After cooking meals, we are asked to perform menial tasks like preparing tea and serving water to the staff. We are asked to stay back till the final bell rings,” said Sharma.Workers claim that they are paid a measly amount of Rs 1,700 per month. “Moreover, we are given no medical facilities. In case of pregnancy, workers are not even given medical leave. In that case, a worker, fearing loss of her job, hires a substitute and pays her from her own pocket. We are underpaid but still we are being forced to work overtime. We have informed the DEO office that if things do not improve we will be forced to go on indefinite strike following which no meals will be cooked in any school,” said Gurpreet Kaur Khuhali, President Gurdaspur unit of the union.

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