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Jul 21, 2013 at 12:26am IST

Bihar mid day meal tragedy: Pesticide found in cooking oil, no arrests yet

Patna: Cooking oil laced with pesticide was used to prepare the mid day meal that claimed 23 lives in a school in Chhapra, a forensic report has found. Bihar Police spokesperson Ravindra Kumar shared details of the report at a press conference on Saturday.

He said the concentration of pesticide monocrotophos that was found in the cooking oil used to prepare the meal for the school children was five times more than what was found in a sample of the same oil collected from the market.

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Kumar said the forensic evidence collected from the school was analysed at Forensic Science Laboratory in Patna. He said it was a matter of investigation that how and from where this poisonous substance got mixed in the oil. "I will not go into the details as FSL report will help the ongoing investigation into the mid day meal tragedy," Kumar said.

"Our focus is on collecting evidence right now so that we have a strong case," Kumar said when asked why no arrests have been made yet in the case.

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Amarjeet Sinha, principal secretary, education, earlier said preliminary findings pointed to pesticide poisoning of the oil and vegetables used in the meal. The post-mortem of the children confirmed presence of a poisonous substance in the potato-soyabean curry served to them .

Soon after the deaths, a top government official said that he suspected it could be organophosphorous poisoning caused due to traces of pesticide in vegetables. He added that doctors had told him that atropine had a positive effect on the affected children. He also did not rule out contamination of the oil used to prepare the curry consumed by children Tuesday in the school in Gandaman village of the district, 80 km from Patna.

Twenty-three students of a government primary school in Chhapra died after eating mid day meals on Tuesday. The principal of the school is absconding. An inquiry report into the tragedy has claimed criminal negligence by the school principal.

"The report points to principal's negligence because it was her duty to ensure that the food was tasted by her and the cook before serving to the kids. Case has been registered against her under 302 and 328. In a day or two, I think the police will be able to come to a firm conclusion," Chhapra District Magistrate Abhijit Sinha said.

While no arrests have been made yet in the case, the Chappra administration on Saturday lodged an FIR against 30 named persons and 60 unknown persons for torching four police vehicles during protests. People had gone on a rampage on Wednesday during Chhapra bandh over the mid day meal tragedy.

The opposition parties - RJD and BJP - had called for a bandh in Chhapra on Wednesday and the LJP had called for Bihar bandh. But the bandh turned violent when protesters went on a rampage damaging public transport and police vehicles. The RJD organised protests on Saturday also. The Opposition has also demanded a CBI inquiry into the tragedy.