x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

India principal charged with murder over 23 school meal deaths

School principal and her husband charged over the deaths of 23 children who were poisoned by a meal which was contaminated with pesticide.

PATNA // Indian police charged a school principal and her husband with murder on Monday over the deaths of 23 children who were poisoned by a meal which was contaminated with pesticide.

The children, ages four to 12, fell ill within minutes of eating the lunch of lentils, potatoes and rice cooked at their primary school in a poverty-stricken village in eastern Bihar state on July 16.

The superintendent of police in Saran district, Varun Kumar Sinha, said that the head teacher Meena Devi and her husband Arjun Rai faced at least five charges including murder and attempt to murder.

Police believe the poisoning was done deliberately by the couple, who purchased pesticide two days ahead of the tragedy and then stored the lethal chemical in the same room as cooking items.

“Police have filed a charge sheet in the court and appealed to the court for the speedy trial in the case,” Mr Sinha said.

The case shone a light on the often unhygienic and dangerous preparation of food for free midday school meals, a government programme intended to combat chronic malnutrition among Indian children.

* Agence France-Presse