This morning, devastated families in the village of Masrakh in Bihar buried children who died after a free lunch they were served in school on Tuesday. Today, at least 50 children were hospitalised after eating their mid-day meal at another school in the state's Madhubani district. None were critically ill, a local official told the Press Trust of India.
In yesterday's case, 22 children have died after they were fed a meal that was, most likely, contaminated with organic phosphorous, said PK Shahi, the state's education minister. He also said that groceries for the school were bought from a store owned by the husband of a teacher. This man, he alleged, has political affiliations. Though the minister did not name a party, sources say the allusion is to the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD, whose chief Lalu Yadav represents this constituency in Parliament.
The relentless politicisation of the tragedy surged even as 30 children are still in hospital.
"My children had gone to school to study. They came back home crying, and said it hurts," one distraught father told NDTV. "I took them into my arms, but they kept crying, saying their stomach hurt very badly."
"The way the opposition of Bihar is responding, I feel that it is a big conspiracy. They want to destabilise the Bihar government," said KC Tyagi of the ruling Janata Dal United or JDU.
The BJP, which was booted out last month from a 17-year partnership with the Janata Dal United, backed some locals who said that officials took too long to organise ambulances for children after they fell violently ill at school.
"It took 15 hours to evacuate the children. This is criminal negligence and the state government is responsible for this," said Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the BJP.
A large mob this morning smashed windows of police buses and other vehicles and turned over a police booth in Chhapra, the main city of Saran district where the school is located.