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We responded in the quickest possible time: Nitish Kumar

Staff Reporter
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Terms the tragedy as one of the saddest, most heartrending incidents of his public life

They don’t give a hoot:Pupils of a primary school having the mid-day meal on a rail track at Rajiv Nagar in Patna on Wednesday. Even after 23 students died in Bihar following intake of contaminated food, the authorities continue to be indifferent to their safety. Media reports say five trains pass through this stretch every day.— Photo: Ranjeet Kumar
They don’t give a hoot:Pupils of a primary school having the mid-day meal on a rail track at Rajiv Nagar in Patna on Wednesday. Even after 23 students died in Bihar following intake of contaminated food, the authorities continue to be indifferent to their safety. Media reports say five trains pass through this stretch every day.— Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

Breaking his silence for the first time since the mid-day meal tragedy of July 16, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday defended the government’s action saying it responded in the quickest possible time.

“Our response time was the quickest. I was receiving updates by the minute. In Chapra the treatment given was the same as in Patna. The doctors there were confident that the children’s condition would improve, but it deteriorated. They worked very hard. It is not appropriate to blame the doctors. In Patna too, two children died. The administration took immediate steps. This is not the case for a blame game,” Mr. Kumar said, addressing his first press conference after the incident.

Asked about his claim of a political conspiracy behind the incident, he said, “Such an incident does not happen due to negligence or as a coincidence. Children were forced to eat the food when they protested.

The poison concentration was very high. This is not a commonplace occurrence which can be termed as a coincidence.

Beyond this, I will not say anything as it will be construed as me trying to influence the probe,” Mr. Kumar said. He refuted the allegations that he was silent over the incident. “I am not the one to remain silent or sit at home. I was inconvenienced to a physical condition [he had hurt his leg]. One thing that surprises and confounds me greatly is who would have a bone to pick with children? This is one of the saddest, most heartrending incidents of my public life,” he said.

He criticised the call for a bandh in Chapra the day after the incident.

“The forensic and police teams found it difficult to enter Chapra to collect evidence. Obstacles were created to prevent them from reaching the village. The affected villagers had noting to do with it. This entire atmosphere of discontent was created by outside people. On the one hand, the doctors were trying their best to save lives and on the other, they [Opposition] were declaring a bandh. Their first duty should have been to help the victims. The level of politics has been lowered to an abysmal level. Despite the attacks on me, I will not stoop so low in politics. I am aware of my responsibilities,” he said.

On Wednesday, the former Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said the Opposition would move an adjournment motion related to the tragedy in the coming Assembly session. He accused the government of influencing the line of investigations by stressing on the conspiracy angle.


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