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4 Children Die After Consuming Poisonous Toffees in UP, Yogi Orders Probe

The children, who belonged to a Scheduled Tribe in Kushinagar, found the toffees at their doorstep.
4 Children die After Consuming Poisonous Toffees in UP, Yogi Orders Probe
Photo - Govind Patel

Lucknow: Three siblings and their cousin died in Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Kushinagar district on Wednesday morning after allegedly consuming poison-laced toffees.

The siblings were identified as Manjana (5), Sweety (3) and Samar (2) and the cousin as Arun (5), the police said. While the siblings were the children of daily wagers Rasgul and Sugiya—residents of Sisain Tola of Kudwa Dileep Nagar—Arun was the son of Rasgul’s sister Khushbu. The children found the toffees and some coins at the doorstep, the police added.

Expressing condolences over the deaths, UP chief minister-designate Yogi Adityanath directed officials to provide immediate help to the family and also ordered a probe into the incident.

The deceased belong to the economically deprived families of the Nat community, a Scheduled Tribe, a majority of whom are unable to even afford two meals a day. A poor landless community, the Nat have quit their traditional occupation of tightrope walking with mostly turning daily wagers.

The family of the deceased alleged that the 5 km ride to the hospital turned into a nightmare when the unconscious children had to be carried on bikes after the ambulance did not reach on time despite several phone calls.

It was around 7.45 am when the children woke up, stepped out of the house to play and found several toffees and coins scattered at the doorstep. Three of them immediately fell unconscious after consuming the toffees and all were rushed to the hospital. The fourth child, who was initially in his senses, told us that they ate the toffees. One can gauge the extent of poison in the toffees that even flies found on the wrappers were dead,” a distraught Rasgul told Newsclick over the phone.

Crying profusely and holding pictures of their children, Sugiya said, “We are childless. My kids were our lifeline. We don’t have a reason to live. Our world is ruined.”

Sachindra Patel, superintendent of police, Kushinagar, told Newsclick, “Prima facie it appears that the children were playing outside their house in the morning when they found the toffees at the doorstep and consumed them. They fell unconscious and were rushed to the hospital, where they were declared dead upon arrival,” adding that a police team has been formed to collect more information.

The police have seized the toffee wrappers for forensic examination and locals are being questioned, Patel added. “A team of food safety and drug administration officials and forensic examiners are conducting a probe.”

Govind Patel, a Kushinagar-based senior journalist who was present at the spot, told Newsclick that the children could have been saved if the ambulance had arrived on time. “Sisain Tola has a mixed population of Scheduled Tribes, both Nat and Musahar communities, living here for the past several decades. Sisain Tola has only 30 Nat households. They are one of the most marginal communities here. In some tehsils, their number is between 3,000 and 4,000.”

Though the Nat have been provided ration cards, permanent houses and toilets, “none of them have the much-needed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act job card”, Patel added. “Majority of the community is dependent on begging and work as daily wagers. Besides, they cannot work as agricultural labourers due to the prevalence of untouchability.”

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