Autopsy reports of the children who died after eating a mid-day meal in Bihar confirmed they died of insecticide poisoning and a 12-year-old boy became the 23rd victim of the tragedy on Thursday — a day that saw students in schools across the state give the free lunch a miss.
But the world’s biggest school lunch programme was still dishing out unsafe, unhygienic food. Close to 150 girls at a government school in Neyeveli, Tamil Nadu, were taken to hospital with complaints of nausea, headache and vomiting after eating their free lunch. They are now out of danger.
In Amritsar, state authorities raided several schools and found worms and insects in the wheat, algae in water used for cooking and pulses mixed with building material.
In Bihar’s Madhepura, two women who cooked the mid-day meal at a government school fainted after tasting the food.
The principal had ordered that the food be thrown away following complaints by students that it smelled foul. But the cooks insisted it was fine and ate it. They have been hospitalized.
In Patna’s political circles, the sabotage theory refused to die down. “It was no case of food poisoning. They were poisoned,” said principal secretary Amarjeet Sinha.
Before the autopsy reports were in, doctors had on Wednesday said the symptoms were synonymous with insecticide poisoning. A final forensic report is now “expected any moment,” Saran superintendent of police Sujit Kumar told HT.
Twenty-four children and a cook are still being treated in hospital. Three are in the ICU with one still critical but doctors said the others were in “stable medical condition” and unlikely to suffer any serious after-effects.
Inputs from HTC Chennai, Amritsar