Bihar mid-day-meal tragedy: Probe report blames principal

Mid-Day MealSchool children eat their free mid-day meal, distributed by a government-run primary school, at Brahimpur village in Chapra district in Bihar July 19, 2013. Police suspect that India's worst outbreak of mass food poisoning in years was caused by cooking oil that had been kept in a container previously used to store pesticide, the magistrate overseeing the investigation said on Friday. REUTERS

A high-level inquiry set up by the Bihar government to probe the mid-day meal tragedy, which claimed the lives of 23 school children in Saran district, has blamed the principal for it.

Official sources said on condition of anonymity that the report blamed Meena Devi, the principal of the government primary school, Dharmasati Gandaman.

"The principal mismanaged affairs of the school," the sources quoting the report said.

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On Tuesday, the day of the incident, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had entrusted the responsibility of the inquiry on the district commissioner and deputy inspector general of police of Saran Range.

The two senior officers visited the village and talked to a cross section of the people there.

Meanwhile, the principal and her grocer husband were still absconding.

"Police are conducting searches and have also spoken to relatives of the principal and her husband Arjun Rai, but they are yet to be arrested," Saran SP Sujit Kumar said.

The police have been deployed at Meena Devi's house, the SP said.

Related: Mid-day meal deaths could have been prevented, says UNICEF

An FIR has been filed against the principal.

The principal had purchased the cooking oil, suspected to be contaminated with insecticide, from her husband's shop.

Meanwhile, Saran District Magistrate Abhijit Sinha said there was no report of any fresh death.

He said though the mid-day meal was being provided to students as usual in the majority of the schools, they were not eating it out of fear.

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