A year after: Bihar village grieves for its 23 dead kids
Dharmasati Gandaman (Bihar): Parents are still in a state of shock a year after 23 children died after eating their school meal in this Bihar village, and the health of some mothers has deteriorated.
Asha Devi, Putul Devi and Sanju Devi, mothers of three of the 23 children who died on July 16 last year after eating contaminated mid-day meal in the government primary school in their village, are not keeping well and are still grieving.
"My wife Asha is yet to overcome the shock after we lost our daughter in the mid-day meal tragedy. Her health has deteriorated," said Surendra Rai, who lost his five-year-old daughter Mamta.
A forensic report confirmed the presence of toxic insecticide strains in the cooking oil used for making the food at the school.
Akhilanand Mishra, whose five-and-half-year-old son Ashish died, said his wife Putul Devi is in depression.
"She is still in shock, always grieving and crying alone," he said.
"Putul`s health deteriorated after we lost our only son. Despite our best effort to make her forget it, she keeps mum and there is no expression of happiness on her face," Mishra said.
He said Putul is not keeping well and struggling to look after her four-year-old daughter.
"After birth of my daughter, she had sterilisation surgery. We have only one child now," Mishra said.
Sanju Devi, whose son Shiva died, is also not keeping good health. "She is not well after the incident and hardly interacts with anyone. Most of the time she keeps quiet," her husband Raju Shah said.
Shah said she was treated in Patna by doctors but continued to be ill.
Villagers recalled that last year July 16, 23 children of this village died after eating the poisonous school meal.
"The mid-day meal tragedy was the result of neglect and failure of the government system," Mishra said.
Mishra said during the last Lok Sabha polls, many leaders passed through the nearby roads but no one cared to visit the village as they were afraid to enter the village and face angry villagers.
Vinod Mahto, who lost three of his four children in the tragedy, said a Special Investigating Team (SIT) formed by the Bihar government to probe the deaths is yet to submit its report.
"We are waiting for the report to know the exact cause of the tragedy that claimed our innocent children. Lets hope for justice," he said.
The state government has constructed a memorial for the 23 children in the village in Saran district.
Soon after the tragedy, the Bihar government announced a special scheme to turn Dharmasati-Gandaman into a model village with a high school, a public healthcare centre, a metalled road, drainage system and potable water facilities.
Meena Devi, principal of the school, who has been charged with murder and criminal conspiracy, was arrested last year and is in judicial custody.
The mid-day meal scheme is running in 72,000 schools across Bihar, and 16 million students avail of meals cooked under the scheme.
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