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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. RTC:

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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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