Lucknow: In another incident related to mid-day-meals, a 1st standard student died allegedly after eating 'khichdi' served during mid-day meal at Jaidopur government middle school in Bansdih Road village in Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, her family alleged.
The incident took place after lunch when six-year-old Gunjan was playing along with her friends inside the school campus after consuming the mid-day meal with 34 other students when she took ill suddenly. However, officials claimed that the girl reportedly had also consumed a few berries and possible died after choking on seed stuck in her throat.
Speaking with NewsClick, basic education officer Shiv Narayan Singh denied the allegation that the cause of the girl’s death was mid-day meal at the school as apart from the deceased girl, 34 other students also consumed the same 'khichdi' during lunch.
Meanwhile, officials said on Thursday that following the incident, District Magistrate Aditi Singh, ordered the suspension of the school’s principal Shiv Kumari Yadav and directed Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) Shiv Narayan Singh to probe the matter.
"Around 80 students are enrolled in the school. On Wednesday, at least 34 students came to school and everyone, including Gunjan, consumed khichdi that day. The food samples and berries recovered from her bag have been sent for forensic tests," the BSA told NewsClick, adding that the administration would punish the school management, if found guilty.
Meanwhile, the girl’s father alleged that his daughter died after consuming the mid-day meal served at the school as her health condition deteriorated soon after and instead of taking her to the hospital, the school teachers sent her home. She had reportedly fainted while playing with her friends. School staff, however, denied the charges and said the same food was served to other children as well as school staff, but no one fell ill.
"After eating khichdi which was the menu in mid-day-meal on Wednesday, my daughter was playing on the school campus. The girl’s friends shouted when she fainted and informed the teacher. The school staff sent her home instead of taking her to the hospital. When her health started deteriorating, we rushed to the hospital where she was declared dead," Jeevan Ram, alleged the deceased girl’s father.
Angry over the incident, the family members went to the school with girl's dead body and held a protest against the school staff. Later District Magistrate, Bansdih SDM Dushyant Maurya and BSA Shiv Narayan Singh reached the school to calm the family members down.
"Following preliminary questioning, school principal Shiv Kumari Yadav was suspended. The body of Gunjan was sent for post-mortem. Prima facie, a fruit seed may have got stuck in the student's throat," Maurya told Newsclick, adding that the reason behind the death will be only confirmed after a complete probe. "A sample of khichdi has been sent for investigation and the report is awaited," the SDM said.
Mid-Day Meals Under Scanner
This is not the first incident in Uttar Pradesh where mid-day meals are being blamed for a students’death. In 2019, a similar incident made headlines and the Yogi Adityanath government faced a backlash after at least 10 students and a few teachers of a school in Muzaffarnagar district fell ill after a dead rat was found in the mid-day meal served at the institution.
These incidents came after a government school in Mirzapur was found to be serving chapatis with salt to school children as part of the mid-day meal programme. After the video of the incident went viral, the local journalist who first reported it, was booked for criminal conspiracy.
Read Also: UP School Children Seen Eating Roti-Salt, Data Suggests Huge Scam in Mid-Day Meal Scheme
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had taken note of the incident and sent a notice to the Uttar Pradesh chief secretary following which two teachers were suspended.
A similar anomaly in the system was exposed when one litre of milk was mixed in a bucket full of water and was distributed among 81 school children at a government primary school in Sonbhadra district.
Read Also: UP Mid-day Meals: One Litre Milk Diluted with Bucket of Water for 81 Children
After these incidents in Uttar Pradesh, the then Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank told Lok Sabha that the maximum number of complaints about mid-day meal was reported from Uttar Pradesh. Fourteen of 52 complaints reported from across the country were from UP.
The ministry said the responsibility for providing cooked and nutritious mid-day meal to eligible children lies with state governments.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has also issued guidelines on quality, safety and hygiene in school-level kitchens to all the states and the UTs. However, the quality of food has always remained questionable in UP with several incidents of students falling ill after consuming the mid-day meal food being reported across the state.