New Delhi, July 17: In India, children dropping out of schools is a frequent affair and the horrors like Bihar gives them another reason to keep away from schools. Twenty-one children have died of food poisoning after eating their midday meal at a government primary school in Bihar's Saran district on Tuesday.
The children fell ill soon after eating the meal of rice, pulse and soyabean. It has been disclosed that rice was laced with insecticides and it was not washed before cooking.
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 yesterday.
Though the school is just an hour's drive from the state capital Patna, it does not have a buidling of its own. It functions from a portion of a Panchayat Bhavan.
Due to the lack of space, the food grains were being stored in the principal's house.
As per rules of Mid Day Meal Scheme, every school is supposed to have a ‘kitchen-cum-store' space of 20 square meters per 100 children to store and cook these grains.
Insecticide-laced rice not washed
A preliminary investigation says that the food had traces of an organo-phosphate used as an insecticide on rice and wheat crops. The food grains were not washed properly before cooking.
Organo-phosphorus pesticides target the nervous system, respiratory tract and cardiovascular system. It leads to respiratory, myocardial and neuromuscular transmission impairment.
In moderate cases, it can lead to nausea, salivation, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating and hypertension. In severe cases, it can cause non-reactive pupils, respiratory depression, pulmonary edema, convulsions, coma, cardiac ischaemia, cardiac dysrhythmias, and hyperglycaemia.
Paralysis can also occur in some cases.
Bihar Education Minister PK Sahi, instead of accepting problems in the implemetation of the meal scheme, has floated a conspiracy theory. He has said, "it was not a case of food-poisoning but poisoning. It is a matter of investigation now to check if the poison was added unintentionally or there were some malafide intentions involved".
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased, has lot to explain.
What is Mid Day Meal scheme?
The aim of the scheme is to enhance enrollment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children in schools.
The Mid Day Meal is the world's largest school feeding programme reaching out to about 12 crore children in over 12.65 lakh schools/EGS centres across the country.
Mid Day Meal in schools has a ninety-year-old history in India. In 1925, a Mid Day Meal Programme was introduced for disadvantaged children under Madras Municipal Corporation.
Under the scheme rules it is established that there will be:
(1) One cook- cum-helper for schools up to 25 students.
(2) Two cooks-cum-helpers for schools with 26 to 100 students .
(3) One additional cook-cum-helper for every addition of upto 100 students. More than 26 lakhs cook-cum-helper at present were engaged by the State/UTs during 2010-11 for preparation and serving of Mid Day Meal to Children in Elementary Classes.
4) The Department of School Education and Literacy had prescribed 20 sq.mt. plinth area for schools having upto 100 children. For every additional upto 100 children additional 4 sq.mt plinth area will be added. States/UTs have the flexibility to modify the slab of 100 children depending upon the local condition.
(with agencies inputs)