After 23 Indian children died from consuming poisoned school meals, it has emerged that victims refused the food before being made to eat it, according to the Times of India. Preliminary investigations indicate the cooking medium was laced with pesticide.
Police say that the latest case of poisoning, which claimed the lives of 23 children, was most probably caused by storing cooking oil in a used pesticide container.
However, an anonymous HRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) source told the Times of India that the cooking agent used for soyabean subzi may have played a role.
“Earlier it was thought oil was put in a pesticide container. But it seems that the lady cook used pesticide,” the source said.
The subzi looked black and smelt odd according to the source. “The school principal insisted the cooking medium cannot be bad since it had come from her husband’s shop,” he said. “When students refused to eat, the principal scolded and forced them to eat.”
“I can accept accidents can happen anywhere. But the scale of this incident and the carelessness, the sheer callousness of the response, the delay in treating the children, is shocking,” activist Dipa Sinha of the Right to Food Campaign told AFP.
The children died after eating lentils, potatoes and rice cooked with oil containing agricultural insecticide that was five times the strength sold in the market place, according to tests.
Forensic tests have shown that the oil contained a “highly toxic” form of insecticide which killed the children so quickly that some died in their parents’ arms while being taken to hospital.
The principal reportedly fled the school shortly after realizing the extent of the tragedy. “A crucial one and half to two hours were lost. Had these children been rushed to hospital immediately few lives could have been saved,” he said.