Primary school kids suffered food poisoning after having a so-called ‘nutritious’ midday meal at school. The policy of the Indian government to bring back school dropouts caused the death of at least 20 students while some are continuing to battle for their lives. The midday meal, provided by the government and government affiliated agencies took a heavy toll of children’s lives,making the midday meal policy a total fiasco once again. The midday meal disaster was exposed once again, after at least 75 kids were hospitalized.
All the victimized students are from Gandaman Primary School in Masrakh in Saran district at Bihar. Most of the kids fell sick after having the meal and were quickly taken to the hospital. But their health deteriorated and some of them couldn’t take the medication. School kids died a tragic death after having a midday meal. The victims are between 8 to 12 years of age. Around 50 children are being treated at Chhapra sadar hospital where the condition of 10 is serious. The school cook Manju Kumari, has been hospitalized as well. They all ate rice and potato-soybean curry.
“Nearly 50 students got very sick after eating the mid-day meal at home. By the time they were taken to PSC Mashrak, two children died. By the time they came to us, seven more children had died. We’re treating the children at the moment. Doctors found some foreign chemical matter present. The post-mortem of some of the children is complete. The doctors did their best to save the children, but there was so much poison in their food that the doctors couldn’t save them all,” said Abhijeet Sinha, Chapra’s District Magistrate.
The exact cause of food-poisoning is still unknown; all the teachers and the school principal have gone into hiding. Because the school is new, it has no proper kitchen. Food was cooked in the open. The parents blamed the Government for providing such a foul meal and agencies for cutting short the money for midday meals and serving low quality food. Fingers are being pointed at Government affiliated agencies who make large profits in exchange for low quality food. This time the midday meal caused deaths, but they have seen bacteria ridden rice and vegetables before. Several hundred people surrounded the local police station on Tuesday evening demanding action against the school. They still can’t believe their children died after having a meal provided by the school.
“Prima facie, these children appear to be suffering from food poisoning but the exact cause of their ailment will be known only after detailed pathological investigation,” Shambhu Nath Singh, the Chhapra sadar hospital deputy superintendent said.
Around noon the children were served rice and potato-soybean curry. “The taste was not good but I somehow ate it. On my way home I vomited and fainted,” said eight-year old Savita, a class III student being treated at the hospital. Her siblings Mamata and Shipendra, have also been hospitalized. Savita’s father said, “The midday meal has become a joke. People responsible for supplying the food are interested in the cut money only”.
An official said villagers pointed out that the mustard oil in the curry was possibly tainted and smelt foul. And the rice quality always remains very low.
Midday meals are offered under a centrally sponsored scheme; under the scheme, foodgrain is received from Food Corporation of India and supplied to the schools. The government cannot hide from the responsibility if any disease or malady occurs; and here the government should take the responsibility for the death of school kids and offer assistance to their parents.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered an inquiry and announced compensation of Rs. 2 lakh each to the families of the children who died.
Chhapra is the Lok Sabha associate of former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who said, “This is happening everywhere in Bihar. I will see who is responsible for this.”
The officials think the government should be more diligent about midday meals in following days. There need to be more oversight. They should examine the condition of food. Now the teachers are hiding and kids are hospitalized but the teachers can’t hide from this responsibility; they are after all, supervising the meal system. The young school kids should not have foul food in the form of a supposedly nutritious midday meal.
Written by: Jayeeta Shamsul