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Updated: July 19, 2013 20:46 IST

Blame game on over midday meal tragedy

PTI
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Children who fell ill after eating midday meal in a school, at the PMCH hospital in Patna on Friday.
PTI Children who fell ill after eating midday meal in a school, at the PMCH hospital in Patna on Friday.

The midday meal tragedy has sparked a blame game with the Bihar government on Friday refuting Centre’s contention of having sent alerts to 12 districts including Saran, where 23 children died after consuming food, over shortcomings in the implementation of the scheme.

“We are surprised over the assertions of the Union government over sending alerts...no alerts ever came to us,” Principal Secretary HRD Amarjeet Sinha told reporters in Patna.

The Union HRD Ministry, which pilots the programme, claimed that it had alerted 12 Bihar districts after loopholes were detected in executing the scheme.

Mr. Sinha said a general communique had come in April regarding poor performance in coverage of midday meal scheme in 144 districts of the country.

“The letter dated April 18, 2013 written by Amarjit Singh, Additional Secretary (Union HRD ministry), pointed to reasons for poor coverage of the scheme in 144 districts of the country and had asked officials to take steps to enroll more students in the programme,” Mr. Sinha said.

In fact a central government report praised performance of Bihar in increasing coverage area under midday meal scheme, Sinha accompanied by Director, Midday meal scheme R. Lakshamanan said.

As per the “Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2012, the coverage area in Bihar of the programme which was 57.2 per cent in 2010 increased to 75 per cent last year, Mr. Sinha said.

Meanwhile, the principal of the Chhapra school where the 23 children, most of them under 10 years of age, died after eating mid-day meal, and her grocer husband, evaded arrest for the fourth day on Friday.

“Police are conducting searches and have also spoken to relatives of the absconding principal, Meena Devi, and her grocer husband Arjun Rai but they are yet to be arrested,” Saran SP Sujit Kumar said.

An FIR has been lodged against the principal in connection with Tuesday’s tragedy in which 23 students,lost their lives after eating food served to them in the school.

The principal and her husband, from whose shop she had purchased the cooking oil suspected to be laced with insecticide, have fled after the incident. Their house in Dharmasati Gandaman village in Mashrakh block, about 50 km from Chhapra, is also locked.

Meanwhile, Saran District Magistrate Abhijit Sinha said though midday meal is being provided to students as usual, in majority of the schools, he had received inputs of a number of children not taking the food out of fear.

Asked about the FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) report on whether the food served at primary school Dharamsati Gandaman on Tuesday last contained poisonous pesticide, Amarjeet Sinha said the lab test was taking more time and the report is expected either by tomorrow.

In New Delhi, the Union HRD Ministry said it is finalising a report on the tragedy and it is expected to be submitted by next Tuesday.

In Madhepura, two women cooks, who had fainted after tasting midday meal at a government school, were discharged from hospital on Friday.

Rita Devi and Renu Devi were discharged this afternoon after their condition improved, said A.K. Verma, in-charge District Civil Surgeon at the district hospital.

The duo had cooked the food for the school situated at Khar village in Gamariah block of the district, 21 km from here on Thursday.

When the children refused to take the food because of foul smell and the principal asking them to throw it, the two tasted the food and fainted.

Madhepura incident came close on the heels of midday meals tragedy in Saran and another one at Madhubani where 50 students were taken ill after eating food served to them in government middle school Navtolia in Bisfi block.

I would recommend that each school that provides midday meal make it
compulsory that the school staff also eat the same food 5-10 minutes
before the students are fed! Deduct a portion of the school staff salary
for the food, make it subsidized for the staff, the main objective is
the school staff should eat the same food fed to the children, so the
school staff will make sure all care is taken for good quality food!

from:  Ranga
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 00:23 IST

It is common knowledge that Bihar is a poorly governed state over the
years.Central Govt communications/Court directives are not taken
seriously with the result that there is despondence all around.People
have lost all hopes.It is inappropriate to deny non-receipt of alerts
from the Centre.Even if there were no alerts/communications it was the
duty of the state govt to ensure proper implementation of the scheme.
The state cannot be allowed to wash its hands off the entire
episode.It must accept responsibility.The way affairs are being
conducted in Bihar for decades negligence and inertia have run deep
into the system.Inefficiency refuses to accept responsibility and
cries conspiracy.The mood of the people can be gauged from the fact
that a Cabinet Minister had to face mob fury and no Minister including
the Chief Minister had the guts to visit the hospitals where the
children were fighting for life.Campaigns for special category have
consumed the energies negating good administration.

from:  Ram Vilas Prasad
Posted on: Jul 19, 2013 at 22:18 IST

Based on incidents and near tragedies in several other schools in Bihar
it seems mid-day meal scheme is in disarray in the state. will Nitish
Kumar govt take this matter up on an urgent basis to avoid further
tragedies!

from:  Suvojit Dutta
Posted on: Jul 19, 2013 at 21:37 IST

Leaders r not responsible for their work

from:  Human Being
Posted on: Jul 19, 2013 at 21:33 IST

Every time there is an incident like this, the English speaking experts provide their expert analysis on TV Studios on what ails India. The reality is that, these incidents are a reminder that India is still a poor nation, where millions do have the basics and that Governance at the Centre and the States is poor. Some States are better than others and this explains why such incidents are more common in Bihar or UP. For all his faults, Nitish Kumar's Government has accepted the backwardness of the State and the Centre has acknowledged that Bihar deserves special assistance. India should learn from this and strive for better

from:  sridhar
Posted on: Jul 19, 2013 at 21:25 IST

From TV visuals most of the kitchens of these free meal schemes are grimy and dirty
looking. These poor States also have labor at low cost...How difficult would it be to
hire some of this cheap labor and spend Rs 5 per kg white chuna, or limestone to
whitewash and give a fresh clean wall surface to these kitchens?. Just because the kids
are poor does not mean they have to eat out of a slum dining halls serviced by filthy
kitchens. Tamil nadu had the worst visual and that too in Chennai with the food
cooked and placed on top of a concretized sewage tank, among the toilets, with filth
and garbage all over the cooking area...No wonder Tamil Nadu has the dirtiest streets
and dirtiest rivers...the children are raised and fed around filth so why will they not
throw rubbish onto streets and rivers and even as grown ups continue to do so..
Even the school rooms themselves are seedy looking and dank...In the rainy season if
rooms are not clean and dry, all kinds of fungus enter the food chain

from:  Angela Alvares
Posted on: Jul 19, 2013 at 21:16 IST
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