Patna, July 18: Thousands of panic-stricken children in Bihar refused to consume free meals in their schools after over 22 children died from eating lunch at Chhapra earlier this week. The food served to the ill-fated children was apparently contaminated with insecticide.
The death of the children, aged between four to 12, led to a violent protest while the opposition parties demanded the ouster of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The latter also retaliated, saying it was a conspiracy to destabilise his government. Meanwhile, reports said that a warning was sounded over inferior quality of food, which is served across the state but the government allegedly ignored it.
Thirty more children were undergoing treatment in a state hospital in Patna. The headmistress of the school fled once the children started dying.
The police after raiding her house said that they had found two containers of insecticides along with food items like rice, pulses and vegetables. The cook at the school had reportedly informed the headmistress about the smell in the oil before she went to cook but the latter did not take the matter seriously.
Following the tragedy, parents of children in other schools have warned them not to touch the food provided in the schools and they have followed the instructions, despite assurance from the school officials. Some students even dumped their lunch in school dustbins.
The mid-day meal scheme in India is the world's biggest school-feeding programme which includes 120 million children.