Indian police arrest headteacher of school where 23 children died of food poisoning last week


(By Uchechukwu Udoji)

Police in India have arrested the head teacher of a school where 23 children died after eating food contaminated with insecticide last week. Meena Kumari had been sought since the tragedy in eastern Bihar state. She handed herself in on Wednesday. Police believe she can help explain how the deadly insecticide ended up in the free school lunch.

In all, 47 primary school children fell ill after consuming the meal of rice and soybeans.

The Mid-Day meal scheme, introduced to combat hunger and boost school attendance, provides free food for 120 million children in 1.2 million schools across India. It often suffers from poor hygiene, and poisoning outbreaks occur from time to time, although rarely if ever with such deadly results.

Patna-based journalist Amarnath Tewary says Meena Kumari was on her way to the court to hand herself in, but police stopped her and arrested her before she could go inside. “We have arrested her for questioning,” said Sujeet Kumar, the police chief of Saran district, where the children died. He told the AFP news agency “we need to talk to her first” before bringing charges.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other state officials have been criticised for being slow to respond to the tragedy. “I assure you, those found guilty will be taken to court and punished,” he told a news conference shortly after the arrest. Locals complained that it took days for any top-level official to visit the village of Dharmasati Gandaman, where the poisoning occurred on 16 July.

(Source: BBC News)

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