At least 23 school children were killed after eating a meal of rice and vegetables in Eastern India. The food was part of a national free meal program called the Midday Meal. Many others continue to be treated at a hospital.
Parents have raised questions about the incident after the principal of the school and her husband absconded. One parent told Indian Express that they received specific requests to ensure their children went to school the next day. They said the Principal’s husband even visited a few of the parents and asked that the children to be sent to school because they would receive books. From The Indian Express:
“Raju Sah, who lost his seven-year-old son Shiva, said, “On Monday, Yadav came to my house, requesting me to send Shiva to school on Tuesday as books would be distributed. This was the first time that the Principal’s husband made such a request.”
Parents also said cooking supplies were stored at the Principal’s home.
Doctors told Reuters that they believed the food was contaminated with pesticide as they could smell organophosphorus, a compound often used as a pesticide. The police have however said the cause of the contamination hasn’t been confirmed yet. They are focused on the cooking oil.
BBC reports that a villager saw crows eat the food that was dumped outside the school and that they were unable to fly and seemed to be gasping for air.
The victims have been buried, some in a mass grave. Meanwhile, the police are looking for the principal and her husband. The education minister M.M. Pallam Raju has said the country will set up a committee to check the quality of food served under the Midday meal scheme.
A boy stands in the classroom where the food was served in the Eastern Indian state of Bihar.
A book belonging to a second-grader lies in the classroom where the food was served.
A girl who consumed the tainted food recuperates at a government hospital in Patna.
The hospital provides some fruit for a boy who fell sick after eating the contaminated meal.
A relative mourns the death of her niece.
Villagers stand around a mass grave for the victims of the contaminated meals at Chapra district, in Bihar.
Family members of one of the victims place her clothes and shoes on her grave.
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