Bihar midday meals: 75 students take ill, five critical

Two separate incidents of food poisoning from consuming midday meal reported from Arwal and Jhajha districts

By Alok Gupta
Published: Thursday 01 August 2013

Barely a fortnight after 24 students died of eating poisoned food at Dharmasati primary school in Chapra, Bihar, the state has once again made headlines for all the wrong reasons. On July 31, 75 students—51 from Kalyugha Middle School in Chapa village in Jhajha,  and 24 students from Chamandi Primary School in Arwal district—were rushed to hospital after they complained of nausea. The condition of five of the children is said to be critical.

The midday meal scheme aims at increasing enrolment, reducing the number of school dropouts while also improving the nutritional status of children and encouraging socialisation across all castes and religion. Though Bihar serves midday meal to 13.5 million children in 73,000 government-run primary and middle schools, the state fails to provide even the most the basic guidelines, infrastructure and monitoring for ensuring nutritious, hot cooked meals.
On Wednesday, 70 students at Kalyuga middle school, Jhajha, complained of nausea and stomach ache after consuming the midday meal and were immediately rushed to the primary health centre. Forty-six students were discharged after primary treatment. Officials of the district administration rushed 37 students of the school in critical condition to the Jhajha referral hospital. All students were discharged this morning after being given intensive medical treatment.

The midday meal at Kalyuga middle school is prepared by the non-profit, Dayawati. The district magistrate of Jamui, Shashikant Tiwary, has ordered the confiscation of the food served to the students as part of the midday meal. The food will be tested in a forensic lab to examine what led to the poisoning.

In the second incident, students at Chamandi primary school in Arwal, complained of dizziness and nausea after they consumed the midday meal served at the school. Twenty four students were rushed to primary health centres where 12 were discharged after treatment. Six students were discharged this morning. A team of doctors from Arwal Hospital and Jehanabad Sadar Hospital had rushed to Chamandi for the treatment of the students. Doctors said that the students are suffering from acute food poisoning. They suspected that either the students had been served food materials laced with fungus or some reptile had crept into the food.

The headmaster of the school, Arvind Kumar, told Down To Earth that the children had been served khichdi (rice cooked with lentils) and mashed potatoes. “I personally tasted the meal before it was served to the children. I had no problem after consuming the meal,” he said.

Bihar education minister P K Shahi on Tuesday had made big promises to reform the midday meal scheme during the monsoon session of the Assembly, including the construction of about 7,800 kitchen sheds in schools that serve midday meals to their students.

Poisoned drinking water

In a separate incident on Thursday, panic gripped Kuchaikot primary school in Gopalganj district after six students and the cook developed severe nausea after drinking water from the handpump.
The district magistrate of Gopalganj, Krishna Mohan, said that a team of officials have been rushed to the spot. "We have received reports that the handpump was poisoned by anti-social elements," he said. As a precautionary measure, the cook and the students have been rushed to the hospital, he added.


Minutes of the meeting of the Programme Approval Board for Mid Day Meal Scheme for Bihar held on 23.04. 2013

PAISA District Surveys Mid-Day Meal Scheme (2012)

Mid Day Meal Scheme in India: Origin and Implementation
Performance evaluation of Cooked Mid-Day Meal (CMDM)
National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, 2006 [Mid-Day Meal Scheme]: guidelines

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