Aug 30 (NIA) – A school principal in India’s eastern Bihar state was sentenced to 17 years in jail by a local court on Tuesday over the death of 23 students who were served a free meal laced with pesticide, police said.
The principal of the government-run school, Meena Devi, was found guilty of culpable homicide for the 2013 tragedy in which nearly 50 children consumed the poisonous lunch.
Devi was also fined Indian Rs 3,75,000 with much of the money intended for the families of 24 injured children.
A chemical used in pesticides was found to be the cause of contamination.
AFP, in a report said that prosecutors were satisfied with the ruling but would challenge the court’s acquittal of Devi’s husband Arjun Rai for lack of evidence.
Investigators told the court Rai had stored the pesticide alongside the cooking oil, and supplied the contaminated oil to the school.
He had secured the contract for school supplies from his wife without following any guidelines, investigators said.
A police inquiry found that the principal had repeatedly ignored warnings that the oil used to cook the meal was contaminated.
In all, 47 primary school children had fallen ill after consuming the meal of rice and soybeans in the village of Dharmasati Gandaman in Saran on 16 July, 2013.
Twenty-three were confirmed dead a day later.
Angry parents and villagers buried three children inside the school campus as a reminder of this tragedy.
The disaster prompted the Indian government to improve food safety in schools. India’s free Mid-Day Meal Scheme aims to tackle hunger and boost attendance in schools, but suffers from poor hygiene.
The Indian government said the Mid-Day Meal is the world’s largest school feeding programme, reaching 120 million children in 1.2 million schools across the country.