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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mid-day meal toll rises to 27. Was it deliberate poisoning?

Protests Break Out In Bihar's Saran District


Mashrakh (Saran): The Bihar mid-day meal tragedy worsened on Wednesday with the fatalities rising to 27 and suspicion mounting that the last meal eaten by the children may have been accidentally contaminated or, as Bihar's education minister claimed, deliberately spiked. 
    The Nitish Kumar government put the toll in what is turning into the country's worst mid-day meal tragedy at 22. But villagers said angry parents and relatives had buried at least 27 bodies in front of the government primary school, where the kids had eaten their 
meal on Tuesday. The residents of Dharmashati Gandaman village in Saran chose to bury the bodies near the school as a mark of protest. 
    According to the villagers, the 27 children buried did not include those who had died on their way to Patna. While four 
kids were declared brought dead at Patna Medical College & Hospital on Tuesday night, two died on Wednesday. 
    Education minister P K Shahi said traces of organic phosphorous had been found in the food served to the children. "It is a criminal case of 
poisoning," he said, alleging that the ingredients used had come from a store run by the school principal Meena Devi's husband Arjun Rai, whom he described as a member of a rival political party— the RJD. 
Did alerts on poor quality go unheard? 
    
Twelve districts of Bihar, including Saran where 27 children died, are among the country's 106 districts with poor performance in implementing the mid-day meal scheme. The monitoring institutions—Patna's A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies and Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia—had, in their last report to the HRD ministry, pointed out widespread mismanagement and flouting of norms. The HRD ministry sent the report to the state but sources said there was no reply yet. P 10 

One cook in hosp, another's kids dead 
    
Pano Devi, one of the two cooks at Dharmashati Gandaman Primary School, didn't turn up for work on Tuesday but her two children were among the 27 who died after eating the lunch of rice and soyabean curry. Manju, who received the supplies from the principal's residence and cooked that day, says "something went very wrong" and kids complained of giddiness as soon as they ate the curry. Manju, who too ate, is battling for her life in hospital, inconsolable and unable to fathom what went wrong. P 10 

A man grieves for his daughter who died after eating a mid-day meal at her school in Dharmashati Gandaman village in Saran district

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