Bihar midday meal toll at 25, knives out for Nitish Kumar

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 17, 2013 23:46 hrs

New Delhi: With the toll in Tuesday’s midday meal tragedy in a government school in Chhapra crossing 20 (at last count 25 students had died, according to a Reuters report), the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) government in Bihar has been drawing flak from all quarters, with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) demanding the chief minister’s resignation. The RJD, along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), called for a bandh in Saran district to protest against the callousness of the Nitish Kumar government.

Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan has demanded the resignation of Kumar. He added a high court judge should inquire into the incident.

The BJP, with which the JD(U) recently split after a 17-year alliance in the state, criticised the chief minister for his “insensitiveness”. BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “Instead of showing promptness in evacuating the children to a better medical facility, the chief minister of Bihar has announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 2 lakh for the relatives of children who died after having the midday meal. This shows his insensitivity and callous attitude.”

Meanwhile, the Congress, which has been cozying up to the JD(U), spoke out against the incident, albeit on a low key. All India Congress Committee General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed, who hails from Bihar, tweeted, “RJD’s reaction on painful meal poisoning in Bihar is on expected lines, but BJP leaders are behaving as if they were waiting for some mishap.”

Bihar Pradesh Congress chief Ashok Chaudhury tweeted, “Very sad to hear about the children at Chhapra. Totally an administrative failure…state government should take strict action against officers.”

While expressing his “condolences”, Congress spokesperson Raj Babbar said, “The party would refrain from finger-pointing. Rather, we should ensure the guilty are brought to book.”

With forensic reports on the case yet to come in, it has been reported insecticide contamination could be the cause for the deaths of the children.

The Union human resource development ministry (the midday meal scheme is a central flagship scheme) is also probing the incident. Human Resource Development Minister Pallam Raju has called for “stringent monitoring” of the midday meal scheme.

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