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Bihar mid-day meal death toll rises to 22

Chapra/Patna: With the death of two more children, the toll due to consumption of spurious midday meal at a government primary school in Bihar's Saran district rose to 22 today.

While 16 children, aged below 10 years and studying in Class I to V, had died in Chhapra itself, four others were declared dead on arrival at Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH) late last night. Two died at the hospital this morning, official and PMCH sources said.

Among the dead were two children of a woman cook of the midday meal project Panno Devi. Three children of another woman cook Manju Devi are under treatment at PMCH along with her.

Twenty five others are under medical supervision in PMCH, Superintendent of PMCH Amarkant Jha Azad said.

The Superintendent said the ailing children were admitted to ICU of paediatric department and senior doctors were attending to them round-the-clock.

The tragedy took place at the government primary school in Dahrmasati Gandawan village at Mashrakh block, about 25 km from Chhapra and 60 km from state capital yesterday.

One girl Kanti Kumari, a student of class IV who is admitted to the paediatric ward of PMCH, recalled that when students complained that the food tasted bad, the school head mistress Meena Devi rebuked them and asked to finish the meal.

"As we felt pain in the stomach, the head mistress asked us to go home. I fell unconscious on the way," she said.

The woman cook Manju Devi, who is also being treated at PMCH, said the ingredients for cooking the meal were provided to her by the husband of the school's head mistress.

Manju Devi's three children, including two sons and a daughter, are with her in the PMCH.

Amarjit Singh, Additional Secretary in the Union HRD Ministry, who has come to Patna in wake of the midday meal tragedy, visited PMCH today along with state Principal Secretary (Health) Vyasji and sought details from doctors about the health of the victims.

RJD President Lalu Prasad also visited PMCH to meet the children. Describing the incident as "tragic", Prasad blamed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the deaths.

The RJD chief told reporters at the hospital that despite regular complaints about mid-day meal scheme in different parts of the state, the Nitish Kumar government initiated no action.

"Nitish Kumar is busy saving his chair and fighting with its erstwhile NDA partner BJP and has left masses on mercy of God," Prasad said.

Prasad alleged that a minister in the state government was supplying material for the midday meal scheme through an NGO and demanded probe against him.

BJP Vice President C.P. Thakur, himself a doctor, who visited PMCH, told reporters it appears to be a case of acute poisoning.

He said as per reports traces of organo phoshphrous have been found in the meal served to children which is poisonous.

Demanding action against the accused, Bihar Congress chief Ashok Chaudhary said at PMCH that his party has in the past pointed irregularities in mid-day meal scheme in the state.

Hitting out at the Nitish Kumar government, the state PCC chief said the Bihar government cannot escape the blame and should initiate action against the district administration for handling the situation in an "insensitive" manner.

Some women groups staged protest in Patna and also attacked the mid-day meal scheme state office.

The agitated women broke flower pots in the office and also damaged table, chair and other properties.

Youth Congress workers led by its former state president Lallan Kumar and youth leader Rohit Kumar burnt effigy of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at Dak Bunglow chowk in the state capital.

A Chapra report said that angry villagers attacked the government primary school at Dharmasatii Gandavan village in Mashrakh block and broke furniture and the oven on which the meal was cooked.

The head mistress of the school is absconding with her family. PTIBack











Saran bandh turns violent 

Chapra (Bihar): Three police vehicles were damaged by agitators during bandh call in Saran district today over the death of 22 children due to eating poisonous mid-day meal in a government school, police said.

Three police vehicles and one belonging to the circle officer were damaged by protesters in Mashrakh block, where the school is located, Saran Superintendent of Police Sujit Kumar said.

In the district headquarters at Chapra, the protesters targeted a police bus used for carrying prisoners and broke its glasses. They also damaged one police checkpost, official sources said.

The day-long Saran bandh call has been given separately by three parties RJD, BJP and LJP.

The bandh has evoked good response with all markets closed and vehicular traffic almost nil in Chapra town, reports said.

Though schools, colleges, banks and government offices are open, thin attendance was recorded in all the institutions.

Policemen wielded lathis at some places in Chapra to quell stone pelting protesters, the sources said.

Workers of the three parties are moving around in Chapra and other parts of the district to impose bandh.

RJD protesters are being led by newly elected MP from Maharajganj, Prabhunath Singh. Chapra is the Lok Sabha constituency of party president Lalu Prasad.

Prasad had visited the ailing children admitted at PMCH in the state capital.

Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav, his counterpart in Legislative Council Sushil Kumar Modi and state party President Mangal Pandey also went there to meet the families of the children. PTI Back










SC refuses to reduce age of juvenile from 18 to 16 years

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today refused to reduce the age of juvenile from 18 to 16 years and dismissed a plea that minors involved in heinous crimes should not be protected under the law.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said that interference in Juvenile Justice Act is not necessary and dismissed a batch of PILs which were filed in the aftermath of the December 16 brutal gang-rape and murder case in which a minor was also allegedly involved.

"We uphold the provisions of the Act... Interference in the law is not necessary," the Bench said while reading out operative part of its judgement.

In the wake of the huge hue and cry over the alleged involvement of the minor in the December 16 case, a batch of PILs was filed in the apex court pleading that the Act should be amended and a minor, involved in heinous crimes, should not be protected under the law. The plea in the apex court was opposed by various child activists, including former Chairman of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) Amod Kanth.

On December 16, last year, a 23-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped and assaulted in a moving bus allegedly by six persons, one of whom is a minor and is facing proceedings before a Juvenile Justice Board which is scheduled to pronounce its verdict on July 25.The girl had succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital on December 29.

One of the PILs filed in the apex court had sought examination of the constitutional validity of the provision defining juvenile in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, which treats a person as a minor till he attains the age of 18 years.

The petition had contended that sections 2(k), 10 and 17of the Act which deal with the issue were irrational and ultra-vires of the Constitution. The petitions had also submitted that the Act needs amendment as it does not talk about the physical or mental maturity of a juvenile. Another petition had sought appointment of a criminal psychologist to determine through clinical and medical examination if the juvenile accused in a case would be a threat to the society. PTIBack









BSP expels MP for praising Narendra Modi

NEW DELHI: Days after he defended Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his "puppy" remarks, BSP today expelled its Hamirpur MP Vijay Bahadur Singh for making statements which went against the "philosophy and principles" of the party.

A statement from the party said despite repeated warnings, Singh continued to make statements which were not in sync with party lines, therefore, he was being expelled.

A senior party leader said Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has been informed about the party's decision to expel Singh.

Singh, who is a first time MP from BSP, has been denied ticket for the next Lok Sabha elections.

Angry at Singh's defence of Modi for his "puppy" remarks, BSP chief Mayawati had slammed him and had distanced herself from the statement.

While terming his remarks as personal, she had recently said that the party has taken seriously Singh's "disease" of making public statements.

On Saturday last, Singh had defended Modi for his 2002 riots comments saying it showed that the Gujarat Chief Minister was a "sensitive" person and his comments have been misinterpreted.

"If he says that he feels bad if a puppy gets crushed under the wheels of his car, then it shows that he is a sensitive and compassionate person. These are my personal views, but his remarks should not be misinterpreted. He is not referring to any community...his remarks are being misinterpreted," Singh had said.

The BSP MP said Modi's statement is "100 per cent correct and it is in the interest of the nation. Those who oppose him are doing so for political interests. Those who oppose his remarks are 'rashtra drohis' (anti-nationals)." PTIBack








Militant killed, 4 injured in Kashmir grenade attack

SRINAGAR: A Hizbul Mujahideen militant was killed and four policemen escorting him to Baramulla district jail were injured in a grenade attack by ultras in Srinagar on Wednesday.

A civilian pedestrian was also injured in the attack on the vehicle carrying the militant, Shakeel Ahmad Kasana, who was an undertrial, in the crowded Batamaloo bus stand in central Srinagar around noon, a police spokesman said.

Kasana, a resident of Akhal village of Kangan in Ganderbal district, was a Hizbul Mujahideen militant who was arrested last year under Section 7/25 of the Arms Act and slapped with the Public Safety Act, the spokesman said.

The grenade was lobbed by unidentified militants on a police vehicle carrying Kasana to Baramulla district jail from Panthachowk police station, he said.

The grenade landed and exploded inside the vehicle, injuring four policemen and Kasana, who later succumbed at a hospital, he said.

This is the first militant strike in Srinagar since the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan began last week.

Police assisted by security forces cordoned off the area immediately after the grenade attack but no one was arrested in the subsequent search operation, the spokesman said.

The attack comes barely four days after suspected militants brutally killed a policeman by slitting open his throat in Vilgam village of Kupwara district. PTIBack









Delhi: 99 pistols seized from car; 2 arrested

NEW DELHI: In a major catch, the Delhi Police has seized 99 pistols meant for various criminal gangs operating in and around the national Capital.

Two men, one identified by his second name Mishra and Firoz Alam, were arrested from Sonia Vihar area on Tuesday evening along with the cache of weapons concealed in the car used by them, a senior police officer said on Wednesday.

"The pistols were kept in cavities created behind the headlights of the car. The weapons were made in Bihar's Munger district. The two arrested persons also hail from the same district," he said.

Munger has lately emerged as the hub of contraband weapons in the country, with pistols manufactured in the illegal factories there even founding their way to Indian Mujahideen terrorists, police sources said.

Earlier, investigators had recovered illegal weapons made in Munger from the five persons arrested in connection with Pune blasts. They had allegedly told the police that they had bought the weapons from Munger.

On terrorists going for country-made weapons, an official had claimed, "A country-made pistol manufactured in Munger was as good as a sophisticated one."

According to him, 130 pistols made in Munger were seized by the Delhi Police last year while the figure for this year stands at about 60.

Costing somewhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000, there is a demand for Munger weapons in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, the national capital and adjoining areas and Bangladesh. PTI




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