The 22 children who died on July 16 after eating their mid-day meal had consumed insecticide that was either in the food or cooking oil, post-mortem reports have said.
Patna Medical College Hospital superintendent Amarkant Jha Amar told HT although it was clear the children died because of insecticide consumption, forensic reports (involving study of utensils, etc) to identify the poisonous substances were still awaited.
The free mid-day meal was served in Dharma Sati Primary School in Gandamal village, 120 km northwest of Patna . The children, aged 5-12, became sick soon after eating rice, lentils, soyabeans and potato.
Twenty-four children, besides a cook, were in hospital in a “stable medical condition” and unlikely to suffer from any after-effects of insecticide consumption, Amar said, though four were still in the intensive care unit, with the condition of one being “still critical”.
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.
Sinha also said the government was contemplating increasing the number of members on the school managing committee (which manages school affairs) and attaching newly-upgraded primary schools to primary schools that have better infrastructure. Now 13,500 of the 21,000 primary upgraded schools have no kitchens.