Bihar govt suspects poisoning as mid-day meal toll rises to 22
Chapra/Madhubani (PTI): The mid-day meal death toll in Bihar's Saran district rose to 22 with two more children falling victim on Wednesday. The...
Chapra/Madhubani (PTI): The mid-day meal death toll in Bihar's Saran district rose to 22 with two more children falling victim on Wednesday. The tragedy that took place at the Government Primary School in Dahrmasati Gandawan village, 60 km from Patna, on Tuesday, sparked violent protests amid State government suspicions that the food was poisoned. Three police vehicles were damaged by agitators during a bandh call in Saran district on Wednesday The Central government has sought a report from the Bihar government on the mid-day meal tragedy that left 22 children dead and 25 in hospital. "It is a very sad incident and we are deeply pained over the loss of lives of young children," HRD Minister M M Pallam Raju told reporters here as he termed the incident an "aberration". "The oil used to cook the vegetables was foul-smelling. Doctors found the presence of organic phosphorus in the food and vomit. It means the children were poisoned," Bihar Education Minister P K Shahi told reporters in Patna. He did not rule out foul play and said investigations will determine whether the poisoning was accidental or deliberate. Shahi suspected the poisoning to be caused by insecticides in vegetable or rice. As the tragedy sparked a political blame game, Shahi also alleged a political conspiracy against the State government. "Principal Meena Kumari's husband is close to a political leader," he said. Pallam Raju said an FIR has already been lodged against the school principal. In a related incident, about 50 students of a government middle school in Madhubani district fell ill after eating food under the mid-day meal scheme. The food was served to children of Navtolia Middle School, Bisfi, about 22 km from Madhubani, amid allegations by the students that a dead lizard was found in the meal. Pall of gloom over Dandaman "food has turned killer," wailed a woman whose two sons were among the dead Patna (IANS): The "food has turned killer", wailed a woman whose two sons were among the 20 children who died after they ate mid-day meal at their school in Bihar's Saran district. "This food has turned killer. We did not know that when the children go to school then we will get to see their dead faces," lamented the woman whose two sons Prahlad and Rahul died in the tragedy that also left 60 children sick, including 10 critically. The woman, wife of Harendra Mishra in village Dandaman, cried bitterly as she sometimes cursed the government and sometimes stared blankly at those who trooped into her dwelling to console her. A pall of gloom hung over Dandaman village where 20 student and the cook died. Another villager, Ramanand Rai, lost his daughter Kajal and her grandmother said the family's dream now lay shattered. According to available statistics, 22,102 government schools do not have kitchens in the state. In 7,235 schools, the storage room is under construction. Twenty dead children were buried near the school. 'Make contractor &?cooks accountable' New Delhi (IANS): Union Human Resource Development Minister M M Pallam Raju on Wednesday said efforts were on to further strengthen the monitoring of the system. Raju said the mid-day meal programme was an integral part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as it helped to bring the children to schools and retain them on the rolls. He said a senior official of the Ministry was already in Bihar to personally ascertain the facts. He said the meal served to the students on Tuesday included rice, pulses and soyabean. As per norms, at least two people should have tested the food before it was served to the children. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Wednesday called for closer monitoring of the mid-day meal scheme across the country, while expressing shock over the death of 21 children after consuming poisoned meal at a school in Bihar. "It is deeply shocking that the mid-day meal scheme is taking children's life. The government needs to closely monitor the scheme through regular inspections in schools," National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Kushal Singh told IANS. At least 21 children died while 10 more are battling for their lives after eating mid-day meal at the Dharamsati primary school in Masrakh in Bihar's Saran district Tuesday. In the past, dead lizards, frogs and insects were found in food served at various schools, angering students and parents. "We have been taking up the issue with various state governments as there have been incidents where children have fallen ill after eating their meals in schools," Kushal Singh said. She added that not only the people who cook the meals but also the agency supervising the entire process need to be held accountable for such incidents.