Food poisoning kills 20 children in India, sparks protests

By The Citizen

At least 20 children died and dozens were taken to hospital with apparent food poisoning after eating a meal provided free by their school in the Indian state of Bihar,education minister said on Wednesday.

The development sparked violent protests across the state.

Police said the children, aged eight to 11, fell ill after eating a lunch of rice, soybean and pulses on Tuesday.

The school, in the district of Chapra, provided free meals under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the world's largest school feeding programme involving 120 million children.

Education minister M.M. Pallam Raju said a school cook also died after apparently eating the meal. The initial death toll

of eight shot up to 20 on Wednesday.
The exact cause of the deaths will be known only after the postmortem examinations and food sample tests, doctors and state officials said.

'As soon as my boy returned from school, we rushed to the hospital with him. He was vomiting and said his stomach was aching,'' said Raja Yadav, the father of one schoolboy.

Dozens of residents took to the streets in Chapra, pelting a police station with stones and setting ablaze buses and other vehicles, television channels showed.

'We are currently treating 27 children here,'' said R.K. Singh, medical superintendent at the children's hospital in the state capital, Patna. 'Of those on admission nine are in serious condition, 18 are stable.''

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered an inquiry into the incident and has offered 3,400 dollars to the families of those who have died, the state's food minister said.

Bihar is one of the most impoverished states in India, according to government data. (Reuters/NAN)