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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Millions of Bihar school kids go without mid-day meal

IANS  Patna, July 25, 2013
First Published: 14:53 IST(25/7/2013) | Last Updated: 15:01 IST(25/7/2013)

Millions of school children, mostly the poorest of the poor, in Bihar were not served their mid-day meal Thursday as 300,000 school teachers began a boycott of the scheme.

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Ignoring the state government's appeal to continue their participation in the mid-day meal scheme, teachers began their boycott Thursday.

Ten days after the death of 23 children from eating a contaminated mid-day meal in Saran district, teachers are in no mood to assist the government in running the scheme.

Bihar State Primary Teachers' Association president Barajnandan Sharma said the teachers have boycotted the scheme.

"With teachers staying away from the preparation and distribution of the mid-day meal, hundreds of thousands of children did not get it," he said.

Bihar mid-day meal director R Lakshamanan admitted that due to the teachers' boycott, millions of children will return from school without having food.

"We had appealed to the teachers to cooperate in running this scheme," Lakshamanan  told IANS.

In view of teachers demand to hand over the scheme to NGOs or some other agency, Akshay Patra, a charitable organization, had been invited to take it over in Patna and Muzaffarpur districts.

Soon after association announced its boycott of the scheme, Bihar education minister PK Shahi said it was difficult to arrange for an agency to run the scheme in 72,000 schools across the state.

"The government does not have the resources to hire an agency for the huge task of serving mid day meals to 1.60 crore students," Shahi said.

Last Saturday, a forensic science laboratory report confirmed the presence of toxic insecticide strains in the cooking oil used for making food at the school where the children died.

The poisonous substance, organophosphorus, in oil samples collected from school was more than five times the commercial preparation available in the market, police said.

Organophosphorus compounds are degradable organic compounds containing carbon-phosphorus bonds used primarily in pest control.

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