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?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine