At least 20 children died and 80 others fell sick after consuming mid-day meal at a government primary school in Saran district of Bihar on Tuesday.
The toll is likely to go up since many children, admitted in different hospitals, are fighting for their lives in an uncertain condition. One of the woman cooks was also said to be critical.
The children, all students of Navsrijit Primary School, Dharmasati, under Mashrakh police station, started vomiting after eating their mid- day meal. While two of them died soon after, nine others lost their lives in the hospital.
Though the exact cause of the food poisoning wasn't known, adulterated oil is said to be the reason behind the tragedy.
Officials said the exact cause of the deaths would be known only after the postmortem examination.
According to reports, the children were served jeera rice with soyabean potato curry during lunch break around 12.30 pm. But many of them started vomiting soon after. Some of them even fainted. When the condition of the students deteriorated, they were rushed to a primary health centre at Mashrakh where two of them died.
Hundreds of angry villagers laid siege to the Mashrakh police station. They alleged that many lives could have been saved had they been provided prompt medical attention.
Authorities have suspended a food inspector and registered a case of criminal negligence against the school headmaster.
A parent said, "My kid had gone to study in school, but he died after eating dal-rice."
What exactly happened:
48 kids rushed to primary health centre in the village after eating mid-day meal.
5 pm: Kids rushed to Chhapra, critical time lost in arranging ambulances.
Seven deaths enroute to Chhapra Civil hospital.
9 pm: Kids referred to Patna after 7 more deaths in Chhapra.
Two more deaths in 60 km transit to Patna reported around midnight.
Nitish Kumar reacts:
Expressing grief over the incident, Chief Mminister Nitish Kumar announced an ex gratia of Rs.2 lakh for the next of the kin of the victims. He also called Education Minister P. K. Shahi to take stock of the situation and instructed him to take stern action against the people responsible.
The chief minister also announced a high-level inquiry into the incident by the divisional commissioner and DIG of Saran division. A forensic team has been rushed to Chhapra.
LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan on Tuesday slammed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over death of school students after consuming mid-day meal in Chhapra and demanded his resignation saying these are "not death but murder". "Is this food or poison, Nitish government is to be blamed," he said.
"It is a sad incident, small babies had gone to study and they died after having meal, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
"BJP condoles the death of these children. We demand that the government fix responsibility for this incident and strict action be taken against the guilty."
BJP leader Pratap Rudy said, "It took 15 hours to evacuate kids, it's only after 17 kids died the authorities decided to shift them at midnight. Nitish was aware of it. He is just 100 km away from where the incident took place. Certainly the state government will have to answer a lot of questions."
He also pointed out that in the past also several complaints had been received about the quality of food served under the mid-day meal scheme.
BJP General Secretary Murlidhar Rao also condoled the death of school children.
"A very heartbreaking and unfortunate incident in Chhapra. Such incidents related to children and mid-day meals should not have happened," Rao said on Twitter.
In Bihar, widespread corruption is reported in the mid-day meal scheme and government guidelines on food quality are ignored.
In past, dead lizards, frogs, insects and a rat were found in the food cooked for the mid-day meal, angering students and parents.
Source: Indiya Today