NEW DELHI

281 school children fall sick after mid-day meal

NEW DELHI, FEB. 26. As many as 281 students of six municipal primary schools were admitted to various city hospitals today following complaints of stomach ache and nausea after they consumed mid-day meal served to them. Barring 21, all the students were discharged this evening. The police have arrested two persons in this connection and registered cases against Stree Shakti and R. K. Education - the two non-government organisations which supplied the mid-day meal.

The Municipal Commissioner, Rakesh Mehta, has also ordered an inquiry into the incident. The kitchens of the NGOs, where the food was cooked have been sealed and samples sent to the Sri Ram Institute of Industrial Research for testing. Mr. Mehta has also ordered an immediate ban on distribution of cooked food in these schools till the test reports were received. Among those arrested by the police were Preeti Bedi and Vikky Kohli of Stree Shakti.

While as many as 146 students of Kadipur Municipal Primary School in Civil Lines were taken to Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital in North-West Delhi, 120 students of Jaunapur Municipal Primary School in South were admitted to All-India Institute of Medical Sciences by the school authorities and PCR vans. Barring nine, all the students were discharged from AIIMS this evening.

At the Kadipur School, Stree Shakti distributed sambar and rice to the students, while at Jaunapur sweetened dalia was distributed by R.K. Education. Food poisoning cases were also reported from Adarsh Nagar Municipal Primary School from where 12 students were admitted to the Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital. They were being kept under observation till late in the night. One student each the from Municipal Primary Schools at Jahangirpuri Block A and B were admitted to local hospitals, while another case was reported from Samaipur Badli Municipal Primary School where a girl was taken to a local hospital following complaints of stomach ache and nausea.

Officials of the MCD Education Department said the first complaint was received from two students of Kadipur School half an hour after they were served sambar rice. Soon, six more students complained of stomach ache and nausea. The headmaster of the school took them to hospital. Within the next 30 minutes, several students complained of similar symptoms. This created panic among teachers and the residents of the area who called in the police.

As news spread, parents of the students rushed to Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital, where senior MCD officials including the Education Committee Chairman, Farhad Suri, and the local MLA, Zile Singh Chauhan, were already present. They gheraoed Mr. Suri who later ordered an inquiry into the incident and assured of action against all officials or NGOs found responsible.

At the Jaunapur School, complaints of food poisoning came soon after students consumed sweetened dalia distributed to them. About a dozen students were taken to AIIMS between 12 noon and 12-30 p.m. The Delhi Mayor, Ashok K. Jain, and the Leader of the House in MCD, Satbir Singh, visited the hospital.

By 6 p.m. all the students were discharged, but later nine of them were referred back to the hospital. Officials said no complaint of food poisoning was received from any other MCD school where food from same kitchen was served by the NGO.

At the Samaipur Badli School, the food - poori subzi - was served by Surya Healthy Food. Officials said initial investigations revealed that the girl student had not been well for the past few days. "Still we have sealed the kitchen and sent the sample for testing,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party today termed the food-poisoning incident in three municipal primary schools of the Capital as a `failure' of the Congress administration. On the other hand, leaders of the ruling party and the officials described it as a political conspiracy and a fallout of the rivalry between the processed and cooked food lobbies to have a larger share of the annual mid-day meal budget of Rs. 22 crores.