Nitish slams BJP for politicising mid-day meal tragedy

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on Wednesday hit out at his critics for attacking him for keeping mum on the recent mid-day meal tragedy in the state.

Zee Media Bureau

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday hit out at his critics for attacking him for keeping mum on the recent mid-day meal tragedy in the state, and said it was his ill-health that prevented him from visiting Chhapra in Saran district.

"Why I didn’t go there, why was I quiet, a lot of discussion took place on this. I couldn`t visit because my leg was injured and at least the local media knows it," Nitish told a press conference here.

"We got information in the evening (of July 16) after the incident happened. We took some immediate measures and the decisions were taken at my level only," the CM said.

"We did all what we could do," he added.

Nitish said he was "deeply saddened by the incident" and had been "monitoring the situation constantly".

"It is not an ordinary incident," Nitish said further, adding "in my public life, it has been one of the most saddening and heart wrenching incidents".

"How could someone be an enemy of children?" he asked.

Promising that those behind the incident will be punished, the JD(U) leader said the matter is being investigated and all angles will be probed.

"The children had alerted many times about the quality of food. We will probe why warnings were not heeded to," Nitish said. "The quantity of pesticide was so much that it indicates something," he said further, hinting at a conspiracy destabilise his government.

"The conspiracy has been confirmed in the Forensic Science Laboratory report as well in the versions of natives of Mashrakh where the incident took place," Nitish, who came before the media for the first time after the Chhapra incident on Tuesday last week, said.

An SIT has already been formed, the CM informed.

Echoing Kumar`s `conspiracy` theory, Bihar Director General of Police Abhayanand said prima facie it appears that the presence of poison in huge quantity in the food for children cannot be due to mistake and the Forensic Science Laboratory findings about huge quantity of poison by way of pesticide organo phosphorous are `outstanding observations`.

"In criminal science the degree of injury proves the intent behind the crime," he said.

Nitish further vowed to take measures to improve the mid-day meal scheme and its security.

"We will also speak to the Centre on the issue. We should not shift the blame on the Centre or vice versa. It is a national scheme; we have to run it and we take it as a challenge."

Nitish did not name the BJP and the RJD but hit out at the opposition parties, asking "how could someone call a bandh when they should be helping the victims?"

"I am not the one who stays mum or sits at home when something like this happens. There could always be a pressing reason why one couldn’t visit the tragedy site. I can`t stoop so low to do politics on such a matter. I have a responsibility and am aware of it," Nitish said.

Charging the BJP and RJD with being `impatient` to destabilise his government and capture power `anyhow`, Nitish said, "I will be in power and continue to work to fulfil the promise I had made to voters in the 2010 Assembly Elections ... Nobody can do any harm to me till I enjoy confidence of voters and blessings of the Almighty."

The Bihar Chief Minister also dismissed the opposition charge of loosing vital time in shifting critically ill students to PMCH by taking them first to Chhapra sadar hospital.

"The response time was quickest...Doctors at Chhapra did their best and when it was thought the children would get better treatment at PMCH, they were at once moved there," the Chief Minister said adding he himself monitored the situation and gave instructions.

"If there is any doubt I am prepared for any inquiry into the medical issue after the incident," he said.

Nitish also dismissed any rift with party president Sharad Yadav over the mid-day meal tragedy.

"There is no conflict with Sharad Yadav on the mid-day meal case ... He has already issued clarification over the statements attributed to him," Kumar told reporters.

A total 23 children had died after eating poisoned food served to them by the government-run Dharamsati Gandaman school on July 16.