February 25th, 2016
Rukhsana Khatoon, wife of Mohd Shagir, and her children at Gokhlapur in Araria district News Source, Image Source: indianexpress(Express Photo Prashant Ravi)
A Scuffle over a government school’s mid-day meal has led to the unfortunate demise of a father in Bihar. The incident took place on February 10th in Bihar’s Rajkiya Prathmik Vidyalaya after Kasheeda, a student of class 5, asked for a second serving of khichdi that was being served at lunch. The 12-year-old girl was allegedly hit for having the audacity to ask for more food and on discovering this, her father Mohammad Shagir protested in the school. He was beaten by some of the staff members and eventually passed away in a hospital.
On February 12th, Kasheeda said, “When I asked for khichdi a second time, school cook Sanjit hit me with a serving spoon with a long handle. I came back home crying and complained to abbu. My father immediately rushed to the school and told Sanjit, ‘Sab bachchon ko sarkari khana khane ka haq hai(All children are entitled to the government mid-day meal)’”.
A school teacher, Z N Ansari, came out and threatened him saying, “Cheer denge(will tear you apart)”. The school headmaster also coerced the staff to hit him. Z N Ansari kicked Shagir between the legs because of which he doubled over in pain and fainted. He was taken to the hospital immediately but died soon after.
Rukhsana said that a neighbour contacted the police immediately but the Narpatganj police only reached the spot at 1 am on the 11th and an FIR was registered against four people- Z N Ansari, the headmaster Hardev Ram, the cook Sanjith Paswan and the husband of a schoolteacher who was present at the school when the incident took place.
The police claimed that they only received information on 10th night and the station in-charge, P K Praveen, confirmed that the incident was a result of the proceedings that took place at the school over the mid-day meal. Statements of the family and 40 villagers were recorded by the police who were awaiting the results of the post-mortem to ascertain the cause of death.
Three teachers and the cook are now absconding as they face a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Several staff members of the school have backed up their colleagues by denying any kind of altercation on the 10th of February. The school has remained closed ever since the nasty event took place.
Shagir has left behind a family of five children between the ages 4 to 12. Their main source of income was Shagir’s daily wages as the family did not own any land. Ever since Shagir’s death, the neighbours have been helping them out with food.
Why The Issue Is Very Important To Be Discussed & The Logical Indian take
This news needs to be debated in mainstream media as it is not for the first time this occurred. Incidents like these are not unusual in the schools of Bihar. Shagir’s wife, Rukhsana Khatoon, said that her son was subjected to a similar hitting 6 months ago when he asked for a second serving. Chand Babu, a class 2 student of the same school, was thrown off the rooftop resulting in a fractured right leg.
Bihar schools find it hard to meet demand at Rs 3.86 per child per day. The mid-day meal scheme that was introduced by the government to address nutritional needs of students in government schools after the 2013 Chhapra tragedy in which 23 children died due to food poisoning has not been very successful due to poor funding. With a mere Rs. 3.86 allocated per child, putting together an average meal is a huge challenge. Scarcity has given rise to numerous unfortunate incidents where children are ill-treated for asking for more food. The already burdened scheme is further pressured with siblings of students accompanying them to lunch.
The question of whether 3.86 Rs/child/day is enough to create healthy citizens who will build this nation is a question needs to be debated, especially just during the national budget!
With the current budget session going on, are our politicians concerned about malnourished children in our country and what they are going to do stop.