India lunch deaths children buried in Bihar school

Nineteen of the 23 children who died
after eating a tainted free school
meal in India's Bihar state have been
buried in and around the school
Angry parents say they want the graves
to serve as a reminder that the children
died due to state negligence.
A doctor at the local hospital said a
chemical used in pesticides was the likely
cause of contamination.
In all, 47 primary school children fell ill
after consuming the meal of rice and
soybeans on Tuesday.
Twenty-two were confirmed dead on
Wednesday. A day later Bihar's Principal
Secretary Amarjeet Singh confirmed
another of the children had died.
Officials say the headmistress of the
government school, in the village of
Dharmasati Gandaman in Saran district,
has fled.
Some children at other schools in the
state are now reported to be refusing to
eat the free meal.
"We have received complaints that
children in some schools in four or five
districts have refused to eat the midday
meal. We are trying to resolve the issue,"
Mr Laxamanan, the director of the Mid-
Day Meal scheme in Bihar, told the BBC.
The scheme provides free food for
students, but often suffers poor hygiene.
It was introduced to combat hunger and
boost school attendance, and reaches
120 million children in 1.2 million
schools across the country, according to
the government.
'Government's negligence'
Angry parents and villagers have buried
three children inside the school campus
while 16 others have been buried in a
nearby area, Patna-based journalist
Amarnath Tewary reports from
Dharmasati Gandaman.
"People must not ever forget that our
children died inside the school because
of the government's negligence,"
Rangeela Prasad Yadav, whose 11-year-
old grand-daughter Mamata was among
the dead, told the BBC.
More than 100 people from the
surrounding villages have attended the
funerals and many are still standing
around, mourning their loss.
Inside the school, books are strewn
around and the kitchen where the deadly
meal was cooked has been demolished
by angry villagers.
On Wednesday, hundreds of parents and
villagers protested by setting four police
vehicles on fire.
Armed with poles and sticks, they
blocked streets and locked railway gates,
halting the movement of trains.
As well as the protests in Dharmasati
Gandaman, a crowd set fire to a bus and
damaged private property in the nearby
town of Chhapra.
Officials said the children showed
symptoms of poisoning by organo-
phosphorus, a compound also used as a
pesticide for crops.
Inside the school, books are strewn around
and the kitchen has been demolished
Bihar State Education Minister PK Shahi
told a news conference the cook told
him the school had bought a new type of
cooking oil and she thought the oil
looked "discoloured and dodgy".
She drew it to the attention of the
headmistress - who was in charge of the
Mid-Day Meal Scheme at the school and
had been transferred there recently -
who said the "oil was home-made and
safe to use".
The minister said the oil had been
bought from the grocery store run by
the husband of the headmistress.
Mr Shahi said the grocery store owner
and other men in his family had fled.
An inquiry has begun and 200,000
rupees ($3,370) in compensation has
been offered to the families of each of
those who died.
Bihar is one of India's poorest and most
populous states.
The Mid-Day Meal was first introduced
for poor and disadvantaged children in
the southern city of Chennai in 1925.