Patna, Aug. 17: Manju Devi can resume cooking at Gandaman Middle School if she wants to, the Saran district administration has said.
The primary school, where the midday meal tragedy claimed 23 school children last month, has since merged with the middle school. Some primary school students who were being treated at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) are now back home. So is head cook Manju Devi, who was treated there along with her three children.
Saran civil surgeon Vinay Yadav said doctors are observing Manju from time to time. “She is physically fit. However, she has been suffering from depression. I cannot comment if she wants to continue as a cook, as she has to regain her confidence. The villagers need to support her,” Yadav said.
The administration says it has no problem reinstating Manju at the middle school — 300m from the closed primary school. District education officer Madhusudan Paswan said: “She will be shifted to the middle school. Whether she wants to join is her choice. If she does, she will be provided the prescribed wage.” Saran district midday meal in-charge Shabbir Hasan confirmed she would be reinstated.
Officials, however, admit a lot depends on the villagers accepting Manju. Manju returned to Gandaman last week, days after PMCH discharged most students. She was kept longer as she is battling depression. She apprehended social boycott and feared she would be lynched as she had cooked the ill-fated meal. Even the other cook, Pano Devi, who lost two of her own children in the tragedy, is in shock.
A district administration official said: “Though, ideally, there is no problem in Manju joining as cook, the reaction of villagers is important. Most villagers don’t want to expose their kids to any threat.”
Haren Mishra, whose two sons died in the tragedy, said: “Parents will not allow children to have midday meal at the school, so the question of a cook does not arise.” Khushi, a Class IV student, said: “We’ll carry food and water from home. We don’t want to have any meals in school. ”
As of now the midday meal programme at the school is suspended. Since the tragedy, attendance has thinned down. A district official said: “The administration is talking to parents, requesting them to send their children.”
Hasan said: “With more children at the school since the merger, more teachers and cooks need to be appointed.”