Poisoned Lunches Kill 22, Principal Is ‘On The Run’

After 22 kids in India died from poisoned school lunches, police say the school’s principal is “on the run” and wanted for questioning.

The poisoned school lunches were served on Tuesday in the northeastern state of Bihar, with possible insecticide contamination to blame for the deaths.

Both the school’s headmistress and her husband are being sought for questioning, local police chief Sujit Kumar said.

Two days after children and some staff fell ill after eating rice and potatoes with school lunch, 25 people (children and the school’s lunch cook) remain in the hospital, and police are investigating.

CNN reports that Bihar state Education Minister P.K. Shahi explained what may have been the cause. According to Shahi, the ailing cook had strong reservations about the school’s cooking oil used to make the deadly poisoned lunches, but the principal insisted upon using it anyway.

Shahi said:

The information which has come to me indeed suggests that the headmistress was told by the cook that medium of cooking was not proper, and she suspected the quality of the oil… But the headmistress rebuked her, and chastised the children, and forced them to continue the meal.

From her hospital bed, however, the cook denied having any suspicion about the cooking oil used in the poisoned school lunches.

Reetika Khera of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi explained that the situation was sad and shocking, but not surprising”

“It is just a reflection of the sort of neglect… and these sorts of concerns in that state and states around that area. In the southern part of the country, children get not only good quality food, they also get very nutritious food. But this is not the case in Bihar.”

Shahi said that while there are some challenges in feeding India’s school children, the poisoned school lunch deaths were one no one could have predicted:

“Even though I would unhesitatingly admit that there are some quality issues before us, this is the first incident which has happened in the state. In the past, we have received complaints regarding quality, but the incident of this nature… has really shocked us — shocked the entire state.”

The poisoned school lunches were served to Bhahi children between the ages of 5 and 12.