Headmistress Flees After 22 Children Die From Poisoned Lunch At India School

11945111-poison-symbolThere 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

31 thoughts on “Headmistress Flees After 22 Children Die From Poisoned Lunch At India School

  1. When one carries deregulation to its ultimate conclusion, this is what we can expect. India is not the only country with this level of nonexistent regulations. Some countries, of course, enforce regulations based on how much the business is willing to bribe the regulators.

    I am sure those who oppose regulation of various industry will find some leap of logic to explain it away, and justify why the USA should follow suit.

  2. The death of children like this is a tradgedy. Parents send their children to school expecting they will return. Children expect to be safe. Corruption and the lack of a fair and timely civil just tic system is something no country can afford for long but it is making how countries and their governments see no problem in this.

    Before we in the US get to overwrought with outrage, we should consider how corporations like Monsanto have been able to capture the FDA and get private immunity bills passes by Congress. How corporation written laws have stripped workers and average people from the right to sue and have established a two tier civil justice system where corporations get to sue each other with abandon and clog the courts with all kinds of law suites while individuals are forced into a system of private arbitration where regular users of the this private and secret system of “justice” are favored. Humans who suffer from pollution and industrial accidents in this country don’t have a chance. Regulators fawn and bow to corporations or are forced to do so by corporate controlled legislators.

    As to the criminal justice system when have we ever seen a serious prosecution of a corporate CEO for pollution in this country.

    Yes, India has big problems. The myth of the Indian economic powerhouse is one that has never really benefited the poor and has helped to decimate American jobs while fattening the wallets of CEOs. It is important to remember its all about greed!

  3. And big business wants deregulation….. Yeah… Sure and when we get there we’ll be there….. I think we have one that came about from adulterated meats…. Little rat here and there for fillers…. Michigan had or still has one of the most stringent hotdog laws of any state…. They are labeled extremely well….

  4. It may lead to a better motto for the food supplier.

    That happened some years ago at a Jack In The Box in the Northwest near or in Seattle.

    The deaths were due to salmonella poisoning.

    Feces had gotten into the meat through improper handling and what not.

    Upon consultation with spin meisters, the motto was changed to “we are cooking the sh*t out of our Tacos.”

  5. “As to the criminal justice system when have we ever seen a serious prosecution of a corporate CEO for pollution in this country.” (Justice Holmes)

    Our own corruption runs very deep thanks to a dysfunctional legal system we continue to tolerate. As bad as India’s … no, but certainly not as good as it should be.

  6. Regulations would not have helped those children. India is a strange country what with their caste system. We dont know half the story here.

    If the court system takes 10 years to reach a verdict, how are regulations going to have any teeth? There is also a huge amount of corruption in India and many 3rd world countries.

    Interesting though that India is pulling itself out of socialism and how most third world countries are socialist in nature. Hmm, does that mean socialism is corrupt or just corrupting?

  7. This is an excellent example of why government oversight and regulations are needed for a public school system. It should be used to discuss the balance of under-regulation versus over-regulation. When someone is put in trust over our children, there needs to be sufficient oversight concerning their safety, especially if we mandate that children must attend that school. One thing that might mitigate this is if parents had a choice of where to send children, and then competition would be in play so that parents themselves would choose only those schools that their own oversight judged worthy of their trust.

  8. DavidM:

    You free-marketers crack me up. Saddle public institutions with regulations but not the private ones, because the marketplace will decide the winners and losers. What makes you think this was a public school?

    And you believe parents using their own oversight will be the best guide for which schools succeed in the market of privatized education?! As if over-worked parents have time to inspect anything with the level of scrutiny required to discover this fraudulent behavior. You seem to be glossing over the fact that the cooks, whose own children ate this poisonous concoction, were in the best position to oversee meal safety. And the head-mistress ordered them to serve it up anyhow- just like the owner of that peanut processor ignored warnings that his stock was tainted and ordered his warehouse manager to ship it anyways; remember that? About 30 people died, here in America, because he put his profits over our safety.

    So now, if enough parents in India simply decide not to send their children to this school, because nearly two dozen were poisoned to death, it’ll go out business. Gosh, problem solved. Maybe. Or maybe they’ll cut tuition so low that enough parents will risk sending their children. But then, you’ll probably say that everything’s a risk. Unless you’re a bankster. That’s the marketplace in action.

  9. RTC wrote: “Saddle public institutions with regulations but not the private ones, because the marketplace will decide the winners and losers. What makes you think this was a public school?”

    Whether the school is public or private doesn’t matter. Either way, if the public is using it, especially if the government mandates that children be educated, then we need some government oversight, and that is done through government regulation.

    I doubt this issue involved a profit motive as much as just plain carelessness and ignorance about the danger of pesticides. A government inspection could have helped by spotting it and saying, “Hey, you can’t store food like this. It has to kept off the ground and on shelves. Pesticides can’t be in the same room with it.”

    But the government regulation might not be enough. Add also the ability of schools to compete for parents to choose where their students go. Who cares more about the children than their parents? Who is better to judge where their children will be safer and better educated? As schools compete, they will be more eager to comply with reasonable government regulations, and eager to be accredited by accrediting agencies.

  10. I am of the believe that food safety standards, along with the environmental standards of China will eventually become the status quo for the world, much like the surveillance network has.

  11. RTC:

    is this what you are talking about?:

    “Better double-check your PB&J! Multiple state departments of health — including Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts — have released warnings citing Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter — as well as the company’s other peanut butter products — as possible culprits behind a Salmonella S. Bredeny outbreak. So far, 29 illnesses — potentially linked to the PB — have been reported nationwide. That includes at least two in Pennsylvania, three in Massachusetts, and one each in New York, Maryland, and Rhode Island. Definitely disconcerting news if you purchase your PB from Trader Joe’s!”

    Trader Joes pulled the PB without being asked to do so.

    Can you provide a link detailing the 30 deaths?

  12. I don’t think the type of school has a single thing to do with this case. It has everything to do with the food chain, and keeping it safe for human and/or animal consumption. I note that big agribusiness wants to make it illegal to photograph conditions in and around their facilities. For example, they even want to make their airspace off limits, and legislation has been introduced to that effect. Can’t fly over the farm in your Piper Cub and take pictures or you will be arrested. Really? The regulated become the regulators in this utopian unrestricted free market with no governmental oversight.

  13. RTC:

    no they wont because people will refuse to buy that stuff. The internet makes this stuff much more transparent and a good thing too.

    If you arent an honest businessman, you arent going to last too long in the internet age. In this day and time if people dont do a search before they buy, they are just ignorant and deserve what they get.

  14. Otteray Scribe:

    First of all a company doesnt own the air above its property to infinity.

    Secondly when you are talking about business becoming the regulators you are talking about fascism/socialism or government intervention in the market place. So that isnt a free market.

    We dont have a free market now but a mixed economy being controlled more by government every day. And that is exactly what you get when government is intertwined with economics.

  15. Bron,
    I know what the FAA regulations say, but that has not stopped big agribusiness from having their pet lawmakers introduce legislation. They don’t even want you taking pictures from a distance with telephoto lenses. I don’t know where that falls on your spectrum. I do know it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a whistleblower these days. Tell about your boss’s crimes and wrongdoings, and you may be the one that ends up fired, in jail or both.

    Again, you conflate socialism with fascism. They are two completely different concepts and philosophies.

  16. And with no government involvement in the economy, you get economic tyranny.

    So as long as you are going to continue to conflate fascism and socialism, Bron, I’m going to poke holes in how factually ignorant that conflation is. While your ability to argue and your logic skills have improved over time, your propensity to make up definitions and cherry pick biased data has not. The differences in the two systems have been explained to you time and again. You usually respond with ridiculously biased definitions from von Mises or Libertarian sources. Even a look at an encyclopedia will show your conflation of the two disparate systems to be in error. The Big Lie tactic of propaganda is still a lie no matter how often you repeat it. The continued conflation and mischaracterization makes you either willfully deploying propaganda (a liar) or a willfully ignorant of the political science and economic realities of the terms you are misusing. Which is it? A purposeful deception or willful ignorance? Or is it simple rationalization for greed without limit or consequence?

  17. Let me try one more time:

    1. An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
    2. Extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.

    1. A political and economic theory that advocates the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
    2. (in Marxist theory) A transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.

    `1. Economic theory advocating elimination of private property.
    2. A system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed.

    See how easy it is?

  18. DavidM,

    Glad you think that government regulation of schools, public and private, is necessary, although the way I read this story, the headmistress had a financial incentive at stake by providing the food used at the school.

    It’s no more true that parents will be better able to judge where their children should go to school than they are the best judges of how to spend their money, as Greenspan was so fond of saying. Set aside the fact that the average American is distracted by sparkly things and jazzy advertising for a moment and consider that parents have no power to compel disclosure of conditions and practices that might affect the safety of their children. This is one of the conundrums of the free market ideology: deregulate on the theory that the market should decide winners and losers, and that educated consumers will always pick the best value, then make it impossible to discover any real information.

    This goes to what OS is saying about flyovers; in Iowa, it’s illegal for anyone, employees or journalists, to divulge conditions in factory farms. For any consumer curious to know how their food is produced, whether for ethical or health reasons, that’s BS. The facile attitude of free-market deregulationists seeks to deny the history of abuses that brought about the regulatory system in the first place.

  19. bron:

    I don’t have time to do your research for you. The deaths occurred near the end of the Bush regime, and the company owner was called to testify before a House committee when the Democratic Party held the majority. I don’t know if Apologizing Joe was on hand for that one, but you can find it on CSPAN.

    I’m reluctant to invest much time on your behalf for two reasons. First, I don’t believe you ever addressed the fact that in the Koch ad that JT featured in a previous post, America has fallen further in relation to countries with socialized health care, which flies in the face of the Koched up logic. I just assume you’re avoiding an inconvenient truth.

    Two, you continue to conflate fascism and socialism as the same, or somehow related, or equivalent even after being righteously smacked down by Gene H. (I actually said, “Smacko”, out loud.) I will assume you are capable of doing your own research, which would disabuse you misinformed opinion, therefore, I believe you are persisting in this ridiculous claim because you have an interest (or could it be an incentive?) to cast socialism in as negative light as possible.

  20. OS:

    I think it is BS for a big company to keep people from flying over their property. I would say 1000 feet is reasonable but it doesnt really matter anymore with the optics we have.

    I am all for transparency. But some things a business has a right to keep secret such as coke’s formula.

  21. RTC:

    I dont know about you but socialism doesnt need me to cast it in a negative light. It does fine on its own.

  22. RTC:

    as far as socialized health care goes, we have it now or are you forgetting medicare and medicaid? We also just went through a turn down and we have an economic idiot(s) in the white house and in congress. All of them running as fast as they can to keep socialism moving forward.

  23. Bron,
    I don’t think Coca Cola’s exact formula need be made public as long as approved and safe products are used in it. For example, food coloring, sweetner and the like. Testing of the product for toxic substances, such as pesticides or heavy metal, can be done without revealing the recipe. That kind of evaluation needs to be done on anything that enters the food chain.

    However, the big agrifarms try to keep their operations out of the public view by making it illegal to photograph or report on how they treat the animals. There is a heck of a big difference between a CAFO and Cola.

  24. I have nothing to add to the story in chief, everyone covered it, and the tragedy of it pretty well. I did read elsewhere, a Raw story article I believe, that the kids were being provided food as part of a poverty mitigation program for children, meant to sustain them and keep them in school. I’m just adding that because the question of public or private school came up. Doesn’t sound like a private school situation to me.

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