While 16 children, aged below 10 years and studying in Class I to V, had died in Chhapra itself, four others were declared dead on arrival at Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH) late last night. Two died at the hospital this morning, official and PMCH sources said. Education minister PK Sahi and principal secretary (education) Amarjeet Sinha said preliminary investigations had suggested the food served to the children contained a substance used as insecticide for rice and wheat crops. “It was no case of food poisoning. They were, in fact, poisoned,” Sinha said, adding the authorities were waiting for lab results. On the other hand, the Bihar government said on Thursday it had not ignored the Centre’s suggestion on improving the quality of food in the mid-day meal scheme and had launched a programme on training cooks and teachers on preparing food in hygienic conditions.
Union Minister for Human Resource Development M M Pallam Raju said the Centre is awaiting the forensic report to know the reason why "food was contaminated" causing deaths in a school in Bihar's Saran district.
In many other school parents are not allowing their children to refuse the food which are provided as part of mid-day meals.
Police have yet to make any arrests in the case as the headmistress of the Chhapra school, Meena Devi, who has been named in the FIR, is on the run.
Jolted by the tragedy, the Bihar government is set to issue stringent instructions for quality check and improving infrastructural facilities. At the Patna Medical College and Hospital, where 24 children are still under medical care, a team of 10 paediatricians is attending to the mid-day meal victims.
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