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Jul 18, 2013 at 07:52pm IST

Bihar: Children refuse to eat mid day meals at schools

Patna: Jolted by the mid day meal tragedy in Chhapra in Bihar, students at various government schools across the state on Thursday refused to eat the food served to them. "We are very scared as many children have died after eating mid day meal," a student in Patna, Shivani Kumar said.

"So many children have fallen sick. Our parents have asked us not to eat mid day meals in school," added another student Jayati.

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One more child died in the Chhapra mid day meal tragedy on Thursday taking the toll to 23, while 25 others, including 24 children and a cook, were under treatment in the Patna Medical College and Hospital.

"The food was black in colour and therefore my grandson and granddaughter refused to eat it. The other kids who consumed it started vommiting," said the grandmother of two students who study in the primary school where the midday meal tragedy struck on Tuesday.

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Meanwhile, the Bihar government is set to issue stringent instructions for quality check and improving infrastructural facilities for mid day meals. "The notice for strict quality check of food served under mid day meal scheme in schools across Bihar will be issued either today or tomorrow," director, midday meal programme, R Lakshamanan said.

He said inquiries into the Chhapra tragedy has revealed that standing orders like quality check of food and its maintenance by teachers and cooks were not observed in the Dharmasati Gandavan primary school. Lakshamanan said notwithstanding the 'mishap' at Chhapra and another at Madhubani on Wednesday in which 50 children fell ill, the mid day meal scheme is continuing in other schools but with extra precaution. He, however, admitted that in many schools children are refusing to take food packets provided to them under the programme.

The midday meal scheme, a flagship programme of the central government, covers 70,000 schools of the state providing food to 1.25 crore children. Lakshamanan, who visited the primary school at Dharmasati Gandavan village in Mashrakh block where the midday meal tragedy struck on Tuesday, said some additional measures would be adopted in the wake of the unpleasant incident and the existing ones would be strictly observed.

Lakshmaman said in addition to the present provision of quality check of food under mid day meal scheme by the cook and a school teacher, the government was planning to include one parent on rotational basis to ensure hygiene of the food. Besides, a register would be maintained by all schools and comments would have to be entered in it every day about quality of food under the programme, he said.

The Bihar mid day meal director said the state government would also look into improving infrastructural facilities for better implementation of the programme. Roofs would be constructed in schools where food is cooked in roofless rooms and cleanness of food storage room would be ensured. In addition to this, the cook engaged in preparation of food under the scheme would be trained to maintain hygiene and quality of food given to students, he added.

(With additional information from PTI)