Minister for Social Welfare Dr V Saroja has clarified that the Government has no such intention of closing any noon meal centres after reports emerged a few days ago that Tamil Nadu Government had ordered the closure of noon meal centres with less than 25 students across the state.
The minister was talking to reporters in Namakkal after inaugurating the research centre of an Arts College in Rasipuram. She also added that employees already employed with the noon meal centres will be retained while new employees will be recruited after the Government assesses the current vacancy.
Earlier this week, reports emerged that that Government had planned to close around 8,000-noon meal centres across the state citing lack of funds.
This news, however, has been criticized by many including RK Nagar MLA and AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran, PMK founder S Ramadoss and Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) President Su Thirunavukkarasar in separate statements.
According to a report in The Hindu, TTV Dhinakaran slammed the government over the move saying, â€śgovernment which has been projecting itself as a government established by Amma (former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa) was now trying to undermine different schemes launched by AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa which were trendsetters for the rest of the country.
According to a TOI report, TNCC President Su Thirunavukkarasar had said in his statement that the closure would also affect 24,000 noon-meal scheme employees. He also urged the Tamil Nadu government to reconsider its decision.
The midday meal scheme that covered primary school students was launched in Tamil Nadu in 1956 by the then Chief Minister K Kamarajar. It was expanded in 1982 as the noon meal scheme covering all students by the then Chief Minister MG Ramachandran.
In October this year, midday meal workers launched an indefinite strike in Coimbatore in an attempt to pressure the state government to increase their wages. Noon-meal scheme workers from around 40,000 centres across the state had expressed solidarity with the cause, and joined the strike, according to M Innachimuthu, the District President of the Noon-meal Workers Association. At least two people from each centre went on strike.
Some of the demands put forth by the workers were maternity benefits for women workers, extending the health insurance coverage under the Chief Ministerâ€™s comprehensive health insurance scheme to cooks and helpers, filling of vacancies in the posts to cooks and helpers etc.
The workers from Coimbatore district had already staged a sit-in protest from October 25 to October 27. On October 27, when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami visited Coimbatore, the workers gave a petition to him, outlining their demands.