M A I N   N E W S

Bihar mid-day meal tragedy toll 22; 50 more kids fall ill
FIR against principal
Govt hints at poisoning 
Protesters resort to vandalism

Chapra/Madhubani, July 17
A day after the deaths due to a contaminated mid-day meal at a government primary school in Bihar’s Saran district rose to 22, about 50 children of another government school were taken ill on Wednesday after they were served food under the scheme in the state’s Madhubani district.

The food was served to children of Navtolia Middle School at Bisfi, about 22 km from Madhubani. The students said a dead lizard was found in the meal.

Around 50 students complained of a stomach ache and began vomitting after eating the mid-day meal and were then rushed to the Bisfi health centre, according to medical officer in-charge AK Prabhat. "All the students are out of danger," he said. Except for seven children, the rest have been discharged from the health centre, he said, adding seven students, five of them girls, were being administered saline water.

Meanwhile, with the death of two more children, the toll due to consumption of contaminated midday meal in Chhapra rose to 22 on Wednesday, sparking a political blame game.

While 16 children, aged below 10 years and studying in Class I to V, 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. Twenty five others are under medical supervision in PMCH, hospital superintendent Amarkant Jha Azad said.

One of the victims, Kanti Kumari of Class IV admitted to the paediatric ward of PMCH, recalled that when the students did not take much food complaining of bad taste, the principal allegedly rebuked them and asked them 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 home," she said. The woman cook Manju Devi, who is also being treated at PMCH, said the materials for cooking meal was provided to her by the principal’s husband. Manju Devi's three children, including two sons and a daughter, are with her in the PMCH.

In Patna, Bihar Education Minister PK Shahi alleged a political conspiracy against his government. "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," he told reporters. He did not rule out foul play and said investigations will determine whether the poisoning was accidental or deliberate.

"School principal Meena Kumari's husband is close to a political leader," Shahi said, as he suspected the poisoning to be caused by insecticides in vegetables or rice. Union Human Resource Development Minister Pallam Raju said an FIR has already been lodged against the school principal. — PTI

Forensic report awaited

* One of the victims, Kanti Kumari of Class IV, recalled that the food served on Tuesday tasted bad and students did not eat much, but the principal allegedly rebuked them and asked them to finish the meal

* She said they felt pain in the stomache and the head mistress told them to go home. “I fell unconscious on the way home,” said the girl, undergoing treatment in Patna

* The woman cook Manju Devi said the material for cooking the meal was provided to her by the principal’s husband

* A sample of the food served has been sent to the forensic science laboratory for testing and the report is expected in a day or two

Norms flouted?

While the Centre has sought a report from Bihar on the Saran tragedy, it turns out that the school authorities ignored the most fundamental guideline of the world’s largest feeding programme —food should be tasted by at least two adults, including a teacher, before it is served to children.





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