New Delhi: The midday meal tragedy has sparked a blame game with the Bihar government on Friday refuting Centre’s contention of having sent alerts to 12 districts including Saran, where 23 children died after consuming food, over shortcomings in the implementation of the scheme.
“We are surprised over the assertions of the Union government over sending alerts...no alerts ever came to us,” Principal Secretary HRD Amarjeet Sinha told reporters in Patna.
The Union HRD Ministry, which pilots the programme, claimed that it had alerted 12 Bihar districts after loopholes were detected in executing the scheme.
Mr. Sinha said a general communique had come in April regarding poor performance in coverage of midday meal scheme in 144 districts of the country.
“The letter dated April 18, 2013 written by Amarjit Singh, Additional Secretary (Union HRD ministry), pointed to reasons for poor coverage of the scheme in 144 districts of the country and had asked officials to take steps to enroll more students in the programme,” Mr. Sinha said.
In fact a central government report praised performance of Bihar in increasing coverage area under midday meal scheme, Sinha accompanied by Director, Midday meal scheme R. Lakshamanan said.
As per the “Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2012, the coverage area in Bihar of the programme which was 57.2 per cent in 2010 increased to 75 per cent last year, Mr. Sinha said.
Meanwhile, the principal of the Chhapra school where the 23 children, most of them under 10 years of age, died after eating mid-day meal, and her grocer husband, evaded arrest for the fourth day on Friday.
“Police are conducting searches and have also spoken to relatives of the absconding principal, Meena Devi, and her grocer husband Arjun Rai but they are yet to be arrested,” Saran SP Sujit Kumar said.
An FIR has been lodged against the principal in connection with Tuesday’s tragedy in which 23 students,lost their lives after eating food served to them in the school.