Bandh turns violent as death toll in mid-day meal case in Bihar rises to 22

TragedySchoolchildren receive treatment at a hospital after falling ill. (AP photo)
Three police vehicles were damaged by agitators during bandh call in Saran district today over the death of 22 children due to eating poisonous mid-day meal in a government school, police said.

In pics: Children undergo treatment

Three police vehicles and one belonging to the circle officer were damaged by protesters in Mashrakh block, where the school is located, Saran Superintendent of Police Sujit Kumar said. Related: Mid-day meal rice fails quality test in Punjab

In the district headquarters at Chapra the protesters targeted a police bus used for carrying prisoners and broke its glasses. They also damaged one police checkpost, official sources said.

The day-long Saran bandh call has been given separately by three parties - RJD, BJP and LJP.

Markets closed in protest

The bandh has evoked good response with all markets closed and vehicular traffic almost nil in Chapra town, reports said.

Though schools, colleges, banks and government offices are open, thin attendance was recorded in all the institutions.

Policemen wielded lathis at some places in Chapra to quell stone pelting protesters, the sources said.

Workers of the three parties are moving around in Chapra and other parts of the district to impose bandh.

RJD protesters are being led by newly elected MP from Maharajganj, Prabhunath Singh. Chapra is the Lok Sabha constituency of party president Lalu Prasad.

Prasad had visited the ailing children admitted at PMCH in the state capital.

Opposition leaders visit hospital

Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav, his counterpart in Legislative Council Sushil Kumar Modi and state party President Mangal Pandey also went there to meet the families of the children.

One girl Kanti Kumari, a student of class IV who is admitted to the paediatric ward of PMCH, recalled that when students complained that the food tasted bad, the school head mistress Meena Devi rebuked them and asked to finish the meal.

"As we felt pain in the stomach, the head mistress asked us to go home. I fell unconscious on the way," she said.

The woman cook Manju Devi, who is also being treated at PMCH, said the ingredients for cooking the meal were provided to her by the husband of the school's head mistress.

Manju Devi's three children, including two sons and a daughter, are with her in the PMCH.

Amarjit Singh, additional secretary in Union HRD ministry, who has come to Patna in wake of the midday meal tragedy, visited PMCH today along with state Principal Secretary (Health) Vyasji and sought details from doctors about the health of the victims.

RJD President Lalu Prasad also visited PMCH to meet the children. Describing the incident as "tragic", Prasad blamed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the deaths.

The RJD chief told reporters at the hospital that despite regular complaints about midday meal scheme in different parts of the state, the Nitish Kumar government initiated no action.

"Nitish Kumar is busy saving his chair and fighting with its erstwhile NDA partner BJP and has left masses on mercy of god," Prasad said.

Prasad alleged that a minister in the state government was supplying material for the midday meal scheme through an NGO and demanded probe against him.

'Case of acute poisoning'

BJP Vice President C P Thakur, himself a doctor, who visited PMCH, told reporters it appears to be a case of acute poisoning.

He said as per reports traces of organo phoshphrous have been found in the meal served to children which is poisonous.

Demanding action against the accused, Bihar Congress chief Ashok Chaudhary said at PMCH that his party has in the past pointed irregularities in midday meal scheme in the state.

Hitting out at Nitish Kumar government, the state PCC chief said the Bihar government cannot escape the blame and should initiate action against the district administration for handling the situation in an "insensitive" manner.

Some women groups staged protest in Patna and also attacked the Midday meal scheme state office.

The agitated women broke flower pots in the office and also damaged table, chair and other properties.

Youth Congress workers led by its former state president Lallan Kumar and youth leader Rohit Kumar burnt effigy of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at Dak Bunglow chowk in the state capital.

A Chapra report said that angry villagers attacked the government primary school at Dharmasatii Gandavan village in Mashrakh block and broke furniture and the oven on which the meal was cooked.

The head mistress of the school is absconding with her family.

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