Death toll in midday meal rises to 20, 27 still ill

Chapra/Patna: Nine more school students died on Tuesday due to food poisoning after consuming midday meal at a government primary school in Bihar's Saran district taking the death toll to 20, official sources said.

Twenty seven others, including the woman cook, were taken seriously ill and have been shifted to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), Principal Secretary Education Department Amarjit Sinha told PTI.

While 16 children, aged below 10 years and studying in Class I to V, had died in Chhapra itself, four others were declared dead on arrival at PMCH late last night, Sinha said.

Superintendent of PMCH Amarkant Jha Azad said that the victims were admitted to ICU of paediatric department and senior doctors were attending on them round the clock.

The tragedy took place at the government primary school in Dahrmasati Gandawan village at Mashrakh block, about 25 km from Chhapra and 60 km from state capital yesterday.

Meanwhile, opposition BJP today gave a call for Saran bandh to protest the Nitish Kumar government following the midday meal deaths.

The RJD is also observing Saran bandh today in protest against the incident.

Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav, his counterpart in Legislative Council Sushil Kumar Modi and state BJP President Mangal Pandey have already left for Mashrakh to meet families of victims and participate in Saran bandh.

The children fell ill soon after eating the meal, which consisted of rice, pulse and soyabean, police said.

They were rushed to Chhapra Sadar hospital. Later 27 of them, including the cook, were admitted to PMCH Patna last night.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered a high level inquiry into the incident, sources in the CMO said, adding that a Forensic Science Laboratory team will assist in the probe, which will be conducted jointly by Saran Divisional Commissioner and DIG.

Kumar also announced a compensation of Rs two lakh each to the families of the deceased. Of this, Rs 1.5 lakh is from the Disaster Management Fund and Rs 50,000 from CM's Relief Fund.

Pained over the incident, the CM has put off Bhamasah Saman Samaroh scheduled here today, sources in the CMO said.