Mashrakh MDM Massacre: Nitish Government Has Blood of Children on Its Hands

(A report by CPI(ML)’s Bihar State Secretary Kunal)

The massacre of 23 school children through the mid-day meal on 16th July in Dharmasati Gandaman village of Mashrakh block in Saran district has not only completely exposed the Nitish Government’s empty boasts about development, it has also brought to the fore the total insensitivity and irresponsibility of the Government.

When the CPI(ML) team led by General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya reached the place on 17th July afternoon, the village was grief-stricken and also seething with anger. 4 government vehicles had been torched and reduced to cinders by the roadside. In the open maidan of the Dharmasati temple, JCB cranes had been employed to dig graves for the burial of the children. Two children had already been buried and 21 had been placed in the burial pits.

As soon as we entered the village we came upon the house of cook Manju Kunwar whose family was wailing for their dead. 9 children from the family had been killed. We were told that immediately upon consuming the meal, the children tottered, fell to the floor and lost consciousness. They were immediately taken to the Block level hospital at Mashrakh. Seeing no facilities for treatment there, the children were taken to the District HQ in Chhapra. By evening a dozen children had lost their lives. 4 more children died on the way to Patna Medical College Hospital. 27 children were admitted to the hospital, of whom 2 died on the morning of 17th July. 25 children survived the tragedy.

Dharmasati Gandaman village has a population of about 200 families, most of whom are poor and small farmers from the Yadav and Noniya castes. The primary school has no building of its own and is run in the small community hall situated in the open temple complex. Meals were prepared and eaten in the open. On the day of the incident, the cook complained about the foul smell of the oil, and many children refused to eat the food due to its bad smell and poison-like taste but the Principal Meena Devi threatened the children and forced them to eat the food. Now the forensic report has confirmed the presence of large quantities of the pesticide organo-phosphorus in the meal. This pesticide has been banned in 50 countries including the USA but it is still widely used in India. It is so poisonous that it can even enter the body through the pores of the skin and cause death. The villagers tell us that one of them, Bigeshwar Mishra, had submitted a written complaint 6 months ago to the district education officer regarding the pathetic state of the mid-day meals but the authorities took no notice.

The incident has exposed the wretched condition of school education in Bihar. The school education system has failed completely due to lack of an independent system for organizing the mid-day meal scheme, as this has now become one of the main duties of the schools themselves. The State has 8600 primary schools which have no buildings but function under trees, in dilapidated houses, community halls, back yards etc. Moreover, these schools are open to the risk of tragedy at any time through the mid-day meal. There are no arrangements for hygienic cooking and serving of food to the children. There is also huge corruption and scams involved in the scheme.

The mid-day meal played a big role in the recent AC/DC scams which flourish under the politician-bureaucrat-village chief-Principal nexus. The meal is cooked for 100 children but the attendance register records show 200-300 children. Nowhere is the meal cooked according to the prescribed menu. Neither is the directive followed that the cook and teachers must taste the food before it is served to the children. Nowhere in the implementation of the scheme is there any sense that the purpose of the scheme is to feed nutritious food to little children. That is why from all across Bihar (and other states) we get reports of worms in the food, children falling ill and even dying from eating the food.

After this incident children in hundreds of State government schools have refused to eat the food and the mid-day meal scheme is closed at present. What is needed is to develop a system (independent from the teaching work) to cook and serve hygienic and nutritious meals to the children. The administration should be made accountable and stringent action should be taken where regulations are violated.

This incident has also exposed the poor state of the medical system in the State. Apart from the capital (Patna), there are no basic life-saving emergency facilities available anywhere. There were no facilities even for a saline drip in the District hospital at Chhapra and no compounder was available to administer drips. Even in the Patna MCH, the leakage of gas in the AC system caused a panic and the parents/guardians of the children from Mashrakh had to run out of the hospital with the sick children in their arms. Nitish Kumar has repeatedly made announcements of opening a new medical college and increasing the number of seats but these remain on paper only. The Mashrakh incident has thoroughly exposed the sorry state of the medical facilities in Bihar.

The Mashrakh incident has also exposed the pathetic state of Disaster Management in Bihar. Nitish Kumar boasts of having constructed good roads by which one can reach the capital from any corner of Bihar within 4 hours. Then why did it take over 14 hours to bring these children to Patna? Helicopters are available for the CM and his Ministers to tour extensively but not for saving the lives of the poor children of the State. A team of doctors could have been sent to the place or the children could have been shifted to Patna without delay, saving many lives.

The whole of Bihar falls within the risk-prone earthquake zone. There had been a destructive earthquake in 1934. Geologists have warned that at any time Bihar could be the epicentre of a future earthquake. Floods occur and boats capsize every year but the Disaster Management of the State works not to save lies but to fish out dead bodies and is unsuccessful even in this endeavour.

This incident has also exposed the utter heartlessness of the Nitish govt. The CM, who embarks on various yatras at the drop of a hat, neither visited Dharmasati to console the victims nor went to the Patna hospital to meet them. All his Ministers were busy in preparing for the coming elections. All limits were crossed when the Education Minister shamelessly put forward the theory of the incident being the result of a political conspiracy to malign the government. Nitish Kumar considered his duty over when he announced a compensation of 2 lakhs each to the victims.

In all, the repeated acquittal of perpetrators of carnages, the incidents at Forbesganj, Aurangabad, Madhubani, Bagaha and Purnea and now the murder of school children at Mashrakh have brought out the total failure of the Nitish govt. Nitish Kumar has no right to continue to remain in the seat of power in Bihar.


Dalit Landless Lay Claim to Gairmazarua Land in Siwan

Resist Armed Assault By Landlords Led by BJP MLA

In Chilmarvan village of Guthni block of Siwan, Bihar, dalit landless poor led by CPI(ML) has been conducting a ‘Allot Land, Give Papers to Allottees’ campaign. Recently, the dalit landless bravely resisted armed assault by BJP-supported landlords. The landless poor had laid claim to 12 bighas of gairmazarua land, and erected hutments on 1 bigha of the land. The Nitish Government’s promise of allotting land to mahadalits has proved hollow, but when the mahadalit landless poor themselves took the initiative to claim land, the administration came to evict them. CPI(ML) leaders had talks with administration on the night (9 pm) of 5th July. During the talks the administration assured that having checked the land records and ascertained its gairmazarua status, the poor would be given legal rights to the land. CPI(ML) leaders Amarnath Yadav and Amarjit Kushwaha returned after the talks. But even as the administration conducted talks, there was firing by BJP-backed landlords, which the police did nothing to stop.

The next day, 6 July, the landlords and their hired goons, at the behest of BJP MLA Ramayan Majhi, returned shouting ‘Long Live BJP’ and again attacked the settlement of landless dalits, armed with firearms and sticks. There were preparations to terrorise and massacre the dalit poor, and the administration was missing in action, doing nothing to apprehend those who came in a mass to attack dalits in their homes. The dalit poor had no choice but to defend themselves, and thanks to their brave resistance, two of the landlords’ hired goons were killed.

Subsequently, the administration is trying to fix false charges against Bihar AIALA State President and former MLA Satyadev Ram, and RYA National President Amarjit Kushwaha. CPI(ML) leaders were not even present at the site, having returned following an assurance by the administration that the land would be allotted to the dalits. Why, then, were CPI(ML) leaders The administration should answer why they took to action to prevent an armed mob of landlords and goons from launching an assault on dalits? Given the absence of police and administration, would the Nitish Government prefer that the dalits fail to defend themselves, and allow themselves to be massacred?

On 9 July, AIALA and RYA held a statewide protest day demanding withdrawal of the false cases against ML leaders and demanding arrest of BJP MLA Ramayan Majhi. In Siwan, scores of youth led by Amarjit Kushwaha marched in protest and burnt an effigy of the CM Nitish Kumar, braving repression by the police. When the police stopped protesters at JP Chowk, protesters kept JP Chowk blockaded for hours, till they were arrested. Protests were also held at Patna’s JP Golambar, as well as at districts and towns all over Bihar.

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