Tempers high as villagers put toll at 35

Midday meal tragedy: People refuse entry to politicians, media

Tempers high as villagers put toll at 35

“Twenty four hours have passed and 35 children died. The administration has put the death toll at 22 so that it does not have to dole out more compensation, but the fact is that at least 35 children have so far died and their numbers could only increase,” averred villagers of Masrakh, a nondescript place in Saran district.

In the emotionally charged atmosphere, tempers ran high. Be it old and infirm or young lad or women, be it of any caste and creed, all had a common grouse: How and why so many children died? Why no timely action was taken to save them? Why the affected children, who were poisoned after eating their mid-day meal, took 12 hours to reach Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) when it should not take more than four hours from Masrakh to reach the state capital?

Nobody has an answer. Neither the politicians making a beeline to visit the affected place, nor the senior government officials who are too shy to go there. Thirty hours after the incident, neither the Saran Divisional Commissioner nor the DIG, whom Nitish had asked to conduct a joint probe into the unsavoury incident, has visited the incident site.

The people are more angry with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who also holds the additional charge of Health Minister after the split with the BJP last month.

“When the kids started vomiting, I was one of those who rushed them to the primary health centre (PHC), and then to Sadar Hospital. But there was no proper medical care…not even enough saline for kids at either of the two centres,” Ranjit Singh, a local, told Deccan Herald, narrating the apathetic attitude of the health officials and district hospitals.

In the middle of tragedy came the announcement of Rs 2 lakh compensation for the family of each of the victims. Angry people saw the Nitish regime’s move as rubbing of salt on their wounds. “Bachchon ki jaan ki keemat 2 lakh hai? (Is life of a child worth Rs 2 lakh?),” Singh said. 

He asked his supporters not to allow anyone to cross the road till Nitish comes and apologises for the lapse. “Neither any media person nor any politician should be allowed to enter Masrakh,” he tells the villagers even as many of them enter into heated arguments with former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, as he makes an unsuccessful bid to visit the school.

The angst of villagers is quite palpable. “We have seen parents of 12 children cremating their dead kids on the school campus, as they felt that the kids should be buried where they had died,” said Chakradhar Singh, another local.

Singh explained how those who died were from lowest strata of society.

“Some were nonias, dushads and koeris,” he gives a break up of caste group only to be interrupted by Lalbabu. “Don’t name the caste. They were just innocent kids.”
 “So poisonous was the food that even some crows which ate the left-overs died in no time. I can only pity these children as timely medical assistance could have saved many of them,” added Lalbabu.

Comments (+)