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184 Students Fall Ill After Consuming Meal, NHRC Issues Notice to Bihar Government

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India has taken suo motu cognizance of a distressing incident reported from a government-run middle school in Bansgaon Parsauni, West Champaran District of Bihar. According to media reports, on 5th February 2024, 184 students fell ill after consuming the Mid-Day Meal provided by the school. The students complained of detecting the smell of kerosene oil from the meal, followed by stomach aches and vomiting, necessitating their admission to hospitals.

The NHRC has deemed the contents of the news report as indicative of a grave violation of the human rights of the students. The incident points towards a failure in supervision on the part of school authorities, potentially leading to the preparation and serving of unhygienic food to the children.

Consequently, the Commission has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary of the Government of Bihar, demanding a comprehensive report on the matter within a span of four weeks. This report is expected to outline the actions taken or proposed to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. Furthermore, the NHRC seeks clarification on whether the school in question adheres to government guidelines and, if not, what measures have been taken against the responsible officials.

In its notice, the NHRC has highlighted the existence of specific guidelines issued by the Government of India to all states and union territories regarding food safety and hygiene in school kitchens for the preparation and serving of Mid-Day Meals. The obligation for a teacher to taste the food and maintain records before serving it to the children is also emphasized.

According to media reports dated 6th February 2023, the affected students were admitted to Bettiah Government Medical College and Hospital and Government Sub-Divisional Hospital Bagaha for treatment. The headmaster of the school has been detained in connection with the incident.

The NHRC's intervention underscores its commitment to ensuring the protection and well-being of vulnerable segments of society, particularly children, and holds accountable those responsible for any lapses or negligence that compromise their rights and safety. 

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