Parents tending to the bodies of their children, poisoned by lunches provided by a government school in Bihar, India. (Source: Reuters)
In India, the national school lunch program for primary schoolchildren serves as a boon to poor families that live in villages and towns throughout the country. At a time when food prices continue to rise at rates faster than workers' wages, families can rely on the Indian school lunch program to keep their children fed. Given the unstable nature of the Indian government, however, the program is filled with waste and corruption, and on occasion lunches are accidentally laced with poisons. Still, today's crisis brings the latter to tragic proportions.
In the village of Chhapra in the densely-populated northern state of Bihar, Indian schoolchildren were poisoned by the lunch provided by a government-run primary school, likely laced with pesticides that were not properly cleaned off. According to Indian officials, at least 22 children have died through this acute poisoning. After their deaths, hospital officials hastily buried the children's bodies. Enraged parents disinterred the bodies and brought them to police stations nearby to protest the actions, as well as the government's perceived ineptitude in handling the program and this crisis. In addition, parents attacked the primary school, destroying the oven used to cook the meal. Government officials believe that the poison in the school lunches was an organophosphorus compound, which is a common pesticide in India.
Unfortunately, that was not the only incident to occur in Bihar state regarding school lunch poisoning today. In the village of Bisfi, schoolchildren noted that their lunch contained a dead lizard. Approximately 50 children were poisoned as a result, and had to be hospitalized at the Patna Medical College Hospital, but no deaths were reported. Protests have ramped up in Patna, with parents and supporters of the opposition Indian National Congress causing damage and burning effigies of members of the state government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.