New Delhi, July 17: The Centre has sought a report from the Bihar government on the mid-day meal tragedy in the state that left 22 children dead as it feared food contamination to be the cause of the deaths.
"It is a very sad incident and we are deeply pained over the loss of lives of young children," HRD Minister M M Pallam Raju told reporters here as he termed the incident an "aberration".
"It is an aberration that this has happened although it is an unfortunate incident, it's not a recurring thing," he said, adding an FIR has been lodged against the school principal.
He said the incident looked like a case of food contamination and asked states to exercise caution while implementing the scheme.
Raju, whose ministry is the nodal agency for implementing the programme, said investigations are on into the incident and whether the guidelines were followed would be known only after the completion of the probe.
Officials said, the ministry has sought a report from the Bihar government even as School Education Secretary Rajarshi Bhattacharya spoke the Bihar Chief Secretary this morning.
Additional Secretary in the ministry Amarjit Singh, who was sent to collect first hand report about the incident, is expected to return today and brief the ministry. The food was prepared at the school and the students were served dal, rice, sabzi and soyabean, Raju said.
"We have focused on the quality of the mid-day meal programme right from the beginning. Even when the gas prices had gone up, we had ensured that the quality of the mid-day meal did not suffer," he said.
As per norms, he said the food prepared has to be tested by two to three adults including at least one teacher before it is served to the children.
Reheating of food is not allowed while authorities also require to ensure that ingredients used for cooking should be free from adulteration and pest infestation and should be used only after proper cleaning and washing, he said. Raju also said it is the responsibility of the district administration and village heads to ensure proper implementation of the scheme.