Mid-day meal deaths: forensic report finds high levels of insecticide in cooking oil

Activists reiterate demand of proper handling of insecticide and pesticide containers after use

By Alok Gupta
Published: Sunday 21 July 2013

The Bihar government on Saturday released the forensic report on the contents of the mid-day meal that killed 24 school children of Dharmasati primary school in Chapra on July 16.
Police said forensic examination had revealed high level of organophosphorous in the meal. Ravindra Kumar, additional deputy general of police said that the insecticide was found in the cooking oil.
“Our investigation reveals that such a high content of organophosphorous is found in Monocrotophos brand of insecticide,” Kumar said.

But the police could not link the chain of events preceding the serving of the mid-day meal and how the insecticide in such a large quantity got mixed with the cooking oil. Kumar said that finding an answer to the chain of events that led to poisoning is a matter of further investigation.

Insecticide board caught napping

Some experts claim that police alone does not have the capacity to carry out such a technical probe. According to Gopal Krishna of non-profit ToxicsWatch Alliance, what happened after the death of the children shows laziness of the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee.

“The committee should have taken a lead in assisting police in the investigation. They should have also taken to task the manufacturer of Monocrotophos and Bihar Pollution Control Board,” he said.

ToxicsWatch Alliance had been demanding proper handling of insecticide and pesticide containers after use. 
Organophosphorous kills around 200,000 people annually in the country. Countries like USA have already banned domestic use of the chemical in homes.

Krishna also alleged that various ministries are not acting in co-ordination in spite of the fact that 24 children had died of poisoning in a span of 48 hours. “There needs to be a joint probe to nail the culprits,” he said.
 Police is still chasing the absconding school principal, Meena Devi. The state government has directed the police to take legal action to attach the property of the school principal.

Funds not used

In another shocking revelation, it has been found that a sum of Rs 462.78 crore released by the Centre for the mid-day meal scheme remained parked in the state government coffers.

The fund was released by the Union government for purchase of storage containers and construction of kitchen in primary and middle schools of the state. The fund was released in a phased manner between 2006-07 and 2009-10.

The money was not utilised for either purchasing storage containers or constructing kitchens. The money was returned to the government after auditors raised objections on money being parked for over four years in government account. 

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