Mid-day meal tragedy: school principal arrested

Rahi Gaikwad
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Meena Devi
Meena Devi

Eight days after the tragic mid-day meal incident in Bihar, the police on Wednesday arrested Meena Devi, principal of Dharmasati Gandaman Primary School, who had been absconding. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hinted at a conspiracy, saying coincidence or negligence did not result in such a large-scale tragedy. He said the administration responded in the quickest possible time.

“The principal, who is an important accused, is in police custody. The police will investigate from all angles,” Mr. Kumar said at a press conference here.

The police, who had launched a widespread search for Ms. Meena, arrested her, based on local intelligence.

“She is being interrogated at a safe place. Rations came from her place pointing to her involvement to an extent,” Director-General of Police Abhayanand said. The police probe focussed on the conspiracy angle as intention “outweighed” negligence.

“The concentration of poison in the food was higher in comparison to commercial preparations. Prima facie inquiries have found that this cannot happen by mistake. The high level of poison is an outstanding factor. Intention is inferred from the level of injury. Since there has been a large number of deaths, prima facie it looks like there was an intention,” Mr. Abhayanand said.

The police are also gathering evidence against Ms. Meena’s husband, Arjun Rai, to establish his role. “We have some evidence of his complicity. He came to the school on the fateful day at the time when the food was being cooked. He used to arrange for provisions for the mid-day meal. His involvement is clear, but the material we have so far won’t be enough to secure an arrest warrant against him. We are trying to cull out more information,” informed sources told The Hindu .

The police are also probing the role of Dhruv Rai, a relative of Ms. Meena’s husband.

So far, the police have not found any evidence of intra-village enmity as a possible motive behind the incident. They have also discounted the caste hatred angle, as children from all castes, including the principal’s Yadav community, have died.

“It is possible that an outside person with no interest in the village is involved. Different types of conspiracy angles are being explored,” the sources said.

The FIR against Ms. Meena has serious charges of murder, attempt to murder, causing hurt by means of poison and criminal conspiracy. The police have spoken of conducting polygraph and brain mapping tests on her, if required.



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