Dismissing any rift with JD(U) president Sharad Yadav over the midday meal tragedy,Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today said there was a conspiracy behind the incident and Opposition’s charges against him were a reflection of ‘dirty politics’.
“There is no conflict with Sharad Yadav on the midday meal case…. He has already issued clarification over the statements attributed to him,” Kumar told reporters at a impromptu press meet a little after the absconding school principal was arrested at Chhapra.
The Bihar CM reiterated his earlier charge that the tragedy was no ‘coincidence’ but part of a ‘conspiracy’ to destabilise his government.
“The conspiracy has been confirmed in the Forensic Science Laboratory report as well in the versions of natives of Mashrakh where the incident took place,” Nitish Kumar,who came before the media for the first time after the Chhapra incident on Tuesday last week,said.
A total 23 children had died after eating poisoned food served to them by the government-run Dharamsati Gandaman school on July 16.
Expressing surprise over the Opposition questioning his ‘silence out of insensitivity’ towards the tragedy,the Bihar CM said he could not go either to Mashrakh or to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) where 24 children and woman cook are still being treated because of health reasons.
“This reflects their (Opposition’s) dirty politics…I can never imagine to stoop down to such level.”
“Everybody knows about the fracture of the small toe of my left leg for which doctors have advised me not to move about. But,I kept monitoring from my residence and gave necessary instructions to the officials ever since the news of the tragedy came in on the afternoon of July 16,” said Kumar,who was seen limping to the press meet in his official residence after disembarking from his official vehicle.
Echoing Kumar’s ‘conspiracy’ theory,Bihar Director General of Police Abhayanand said prima facie it appears that the presence of poison in huge quantity in the food for children cannot be due to mistake and the Forensic Science Laboratory findings about huge quantity of poison by way of pesticide organo phosphorous are ‘outstanding observations’.
“In criminal science the degree of injury proves the intent behind the crime,” he said.
Kumar in a veiled attack on opposition RJD and BJP,said “While the whole world was busy assisting the victims in Chhapra hospital some people were busy organising bandhs over the incident.
“They created violence by torching police jeeps during Saran bandh on July 17 so that the police could not probe the matter and things could deteriorate further.”
Charging the opposition BJP and RJD with being ‘impatient’ to destabilise his government and capture power ‘anyhow’,Kumar said,”I will be in power and continue to work to fulfil the promise I had made to voters in the 2010 assembly elections…. Nobody can do any harm to me till I enjoy confidence of voters and blessings of the Almighty.”
The Bihar chief minister also dismissed the opposition charge of losing vital time in shifting critically ill students to PMCH by taking them first to Chhapra sadar hospital.
“The response time was quickest…. Doctors at Chhapra did their best and when it was thought the children would get better treatment at PMCH,they were at once moved there,” the chief minister said adding he himself monitored the situation and gave instructions.
“If there is any doubt I am prepared for any inquiry into the medical issue after the incident,” he said.
Asked to comment on the blame game between the Centre and the state over the mid-day meal tragedy triggered by Union Minister Pallam Raju’s statement that advance alerts were issued to the state for 12 districts including Saran,Kumar said there was no use pointing accusing fingers at each other.
“The best thing will be to work together for better implementation of the mid-day meal scheme,an important nutritional programme,” he said adding he would definitely participate if the Centre called a meeting on the scheme and give suggestions for its better implementation.”
“More funds have to be pumped in to make this central scheme,” he added.
Kumar said the payment of the cook working in the midday meal scheme needs to be hiked from present Rs 1,000 per month.
Referring to the Dharmasati Gandaman village,where the tragedy took place,he said it would be given a face lift by providing better drinking water facilities,electricity and skill development of its youths. Besides,a health centre and a high school would also be built.
The chief minister said more attention will be paid to existing schemes like Indira Awas Yojana in the village and the work has already started under state’s special component plan as part of the programme ‘Aapki sarkar aapke dwar’ (government at your doorsteps) after his instructions to Chief Secretary A K Sinha.
Abhyanand said two FIRs have been registered,both in Mashrakh police station,in connection with the Chhapra mid-day meal tragedy.
The first one is against school principal Meena Devi under sections 302 (murder),120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 328 (causing hurt by means of poison) of IPC.
A second FIR has also been registered in the same police station for rioting and targeting police after the incidents against some named and some unnamed persons under sections 147 (punishment for rioting),148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon),149 (unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of IPC.
Principal Secretary HRD Amarjeet Sinha also accompanied the chief minister at the press meet.