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Indian School Principal Arrested After Children Died Of Pesticide Poisoning In School Lunch

“[T]he principal of a school in eastern India where 23 children died [last week] after eating a lunch tainted with pesticide was arrested Wednesday by the police,” the New York Times reports. Meena Kumari “was among the most wanted people in India after she fled her school in the village of Dharmasati Gandawa in Bihar’s Saran district when the children in her school started vomiting soon after eating a free lunch,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Kumari bought the cooking oil [which was contaminated with pesticides] from a store owned by her husband, who might have kept the cooking oil in a container once filled with pesticide, the police said.” The New York Times notes, “School lunch programs became universal in India after a 2001 order by the country’s Supreme Court, and free meals are now served to 120 million children — by far the largest such program in the world.” With “nearly half of Indian children suffer[ing] some form of malnutrition, [the program] also serves a vital health purpose,” the newspaper writes, adding, “But like many government programs in India, it is underfinanced and plagued by corruption and mismanagement. Cases of tainted food are fairly routine, and in the days after the Bihar case Indian news media reported other instances of children sickened by school lunches” (Harris/Kumar, 7/24).