There is an unspeakable tragedy in India that again shows the lack of deterrence and regulation in that country over food safety, a problem also prevalent in other countries like China. Twenty-two children are dead after lunch in their school in Chhapra. The food was obviously poisoned and officials believe that the culprit was a pesticide. Two of the children of the headmistress, Meena Devi, were also sickened. She is now reportedly on the run with two other teachers.
The dead included two children of a woman cook of the mid-day meal. Another cook and her three children were hospitalized. While students said that they found a lizard tail in the food, investigators are focusing on an altercation between the dead cook and the headmistress, Meena Devi. One account said that the cook refused to use a container for the food but that the headmistress insisted that she should. A cook said that the ingredients for cooking the meal were provided to her by the husband of the school’s head mistress.
Authorities searched Meena Devi’s residential store and found stocks of food and vegetables lying together with pesticides and organic manure. Police believe that one of the insecticide containers may have been used to measure or store cooking oil. That would explain the traces of phosphate and insecticides found in the vegetables.
There are so many aspects of this story that show systemic problems in the system. The store is referenced as belonging to the headmistress, which would be an obvious conflict of interest and self-dealing concern. Moreover, the lack of proper storage and preparation shows an utter lack of enforced regulation.
In addition to the regulatory problems, India continues to run a court system that is a nightmare. Many cases take ten years or more to reach verdict. The result is that contracts are routinely broke for lack of enforcement and efforts to recover damages in torts are often dropped. As a new economic powerhouse, India cannot afford to have such a dysfunctional legal system, which reduces the deterrence for violations of different kinds, including food handling as in this case. While criminal liability is faster and remains a deterrent, civil liability has become almost an abstraction according to many of my friends who work in the country.
Source: Hindustan Times