Bihar midday meal horror: 22 children die in Saran, 50 students fall ill in Madhubani

Also see political blame game

PATNA: A day after deaths due
to contaminated midday meal at
a government primary school in
Saran district, about 50 children
of another government school
were taken ill on Wednesday after they were served food
under the scheme in Madhubani
district of the state. The food was served to students
of Navtolia Middle School, Bisfi,
about 22 km from here. The
students alleged that the meal
had a dead lizard in it. Around 50 students complained of stomach ache and began vomiting after eating
the midday meal. They were taken to Bisfi health
centre, its medical officer in charge A K Prabhat told
reporters here. “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, are being administered
saline water. District magistrate Lokesh Kumar Singh and circle
officer of Bisfi have reached the health centre to
inquire into the matter.
Meanwhile, with the death of two more children,
the death toll due to consumption of contaminated
midday meal in Chhapra rose to 22 on Wednesday. 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 on Tuesday. BJP vice president CP Thakur, himself a doctor, told
reporters it appears to be a case of acute poisoning
after visiting PMCH. He said, as per reports, traces of organo
phoshphrous have been found in the meal served
to children which is poisonous. Some women groups staged protest in Patna and
also attacked the midday 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 Chhapra 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 headmistress of the school is absconding with
her family.

Political Blame Game

The deaths triggered a political row with the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday calling
Nitish Kumar “insensitive”. “The chief minister of Bihar instead of showing
promptness in evacuating the children to a better
medical facility has announced a ex-gratia amount
of Rs 2 lakh for the children who died after having
a midday meal. This showcases the insensitivity and
the callous attitude,” said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy in Delhi. In Bihar, widespread corruption is reported in the
midday meal scheme and government guidelines
on food quality are ignored. In the past, dead lizards, frogs, insects and a rat
were found in food cooked for the midday meal at
schools, angering students and parents. Hitting out at 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. Demanding action against the accused, Bihar
Congress chief Ashok Chaudhary said at PMCH that
his party has in the past pointed irregularities in
midday meal scheme in the state.


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