Indian police arrest head teacher over poisoned school meals which killed 23 children in Bihar

Forensic tests revealed that the food contained toxic levels of a deadly pesticide

The head teacher at a school in India where 23 children died after they were served a meal containing contaminated oil has been arrested.

Meena Kumari fled as soon as the children began falling ill nine days ago, and has been in hiding since.

Angry crowds took to the streets after the children, between the ages of five and 12, died and many others fell ill at the school in the eastern Bihar state.

Forensic tests revealed that the meal of rice with soybeans and potatoes contained toxic levels of a deadly insecticide.

The protesters besieged the local police station, set four police vehicles alight, insisting that many would have survived had they got medical attention sooner.

At least 80 other children from the Navsrijit Primary School were affected by the outbreak.

The opposition BJP party criticised the time it took for children to be taken to hospital. Its leader, Pratap Rudy, said: “It took 15 hours to evacuate kids, it’s only after 17 kids died the authorities decided to shift them at midnight."

Police quickly registered a case of criminal negligence against Kumari. Investigators arrested her today and were questioning her to establish how the pesticide got mixed with the food.

Bihar's education minister, P.K. Sahi, has said the head bought the ingredients for the meal from a shop owned by her husband, who has also fled.

The school's cooks told authorities that the head controlled the food for the government-provided free daily lunch.

India's midday meal plan - a scheme monitored under a £25m UK government programme - is one of the world's biggest school nutrition programs and one of the key planks of the Indian government’s anti-poverty strategy.

It was first introduced in the 1960s in southern India, where it was seen as an incentive for poor parents to send their children to school.

Since then, it has spread across the country, covering some 120 million schoolchildren. It is part of an effort to address concerns about malnutrition, which the government says nearly half of all Indian children suffer from.

In Bihar, it is monitored by the UK government through a £25m grant from the Department for International Development (DfID) for its Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) Programme Phase II, which is due to run until 2015.

A DFID spokesman said UK money did not directly fund the scheme but helped to monitor the way it was implemented: “DFID does not fund the Midday Meal Scheme in Bihar. Our support to PACS helps communities to effectively monitor the implementation of the scheme.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower