Bihar minister Parween Amanullah was today attacked and held up for some time by a mob in Vaishali district which was agitating over the deaths of 23 children who died in the mid-day meal tragedy in the state.
Amanullah,who is the Minister for Social Welfare,was on her way to Muzaffarpur from Patna when the protesters,who had blockaded National Highway 77 near Rai Birendra College,about 5km from Hajipur town,pelted her car with stones,forcing it to halt.
“I was stopped by the mob for nearly 15 minutes before police came and escorted my car to safety…. Stones hit my car while I was sitting inside,” Amanullah said.
The minister said she cancelled her programme and returned to Patna after the incident.
Vaishali SP Suresh Chaudhary confirmed the incident.
The Bihar government has been under attack by opposition parties over the mid-day meal tragedy in Saran district which has claimed the lives of 23 children.
RJD,BJP and CPI had separately observed bandh in Saran yesterday.
Opposition parties have blamed the state government for the delay in rushing the victims to hospital after they were taken ill upon eating the meal.
Principal absconding,no arrests yet
The principal of the government school in Chapra in whose 23 children died in the mid-day meal tragedy suspected to have been caused by poisoned food was absconding,as it emerged that the free food served did not undergo any quality checks.
Amardeep Sinha,Principal Secretary,Bihar said the case seemed to be one of “poisoning of food” and not “food poisoning.”
The death toll rose to 23 after it came to the knowledge of the district administration today that one child was buried by family members without keeping the authorities informed,Saran District Magistrate Abhijit Sinha said.
24 children and a woman cook Manju Devi were under treatment at the Patna Medical College and Hospital.
No arrests have been made,two days after the incident,as a mass grave outside the primary school at Dharmasati Gandavan village where the dead were buried bore mute testimony to the tragedy.
“This school will not run… we will not allow it,” said Rakeshwar Mahato who lost his grand-daughter in the tragedy. “This is where our children were murdered,” he said,defending the decision to bury the children just outside the school premises as a mark of protest by the families.
Sinha said that Meena Devi,the principal of the school,is absconding along with her husband and the police was conducting raids at their possible hideouts. The grocery from where the items for the midday meal were brought belonged to Meena’s husband,it was stated.
The principal,against whom an FIR has been lodged,has already been suspended by the state administration.
State education minister P K Sahi said yesterday a preliminary investigation suggested that the food served to the children contained an organophosphate used as an insecticide on rice and wheat crops. He also alleged there was a political conspiracy to destabilise the Nitish Kumar government.
Bihar’s Director of midday meal programme R Lakshamanan said inquiries into the Saran tragedy showed that standing orders like quality check of food and its maintenance by teachers and cooks were not observed at the school.
As the tragedy created a scare,he admitted that in many schools children are refusing to take food packets provided to them under the programme.
The mid-day meal scheme,a flagship programme of the central government,covers 70,000 schools of Bihar providing food to 1.25 crore children.