| Food for thought, Mr CM? Primary school students of Kandi Nawada in Gaya on Friday hold up applications sent by their parents to the institution, stating their wards would not eat the midday meal. Picture by Suman
Patna, July 26: The lawmakers of the state have overlooked the 23 children who died last week after consuming the midday meal that was offered to them with the guarantee of the government.
In his address to the House, Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary omitted the names of the 23 students of the Gandaman Primary School in his obituary references. Ten former MLAs, including Basudev Singh and Kumud Ranjan Jha, were mourned on the opening day of the monsoon session.
The students, who hailed from the village of Dharmasati-Gandaman in Saran district, died after eating the free lunch that is served to them under the world’s largest such midday meal scheme. The food was found to be laced with a toxic compound found in insecticides.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar has so far not visited the village. The only action taken so far by the government is arresting the school principal who was on the run for eight days.
Leader of the Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav pointed out the omission to Speaker Chaudhary. “The 23 children of Dharmasati-Gandaman, those who died in the Uttarakhand flood and those killed in the police firing in Bagaha should also be included in the list,” he said.
The Speaker ignored his suggestion. In his address, Chaudhary mentioned the July 7 terror attacks on the Mahabodhi Mahavihara in Bodhgaya, in which two monks were wounded, and said the perpetrators of the strike were anti-nationals.
“This is the height of insensitivity,” said Nand Kishore. “This is a tragic incident but the government did not think it necessary to include the names of the children who lost their lives in the list of the people who should be mourned in the House.”
He added: “The chief minister did not go to the village (Dharmasati-Gandaman) or Patna Medical College and Hospital (where some of the victims were treated) to meet and console the parents or see the children. He said he had a hairline fracture on his foot. But that has not stopped him from coming to the House to save his government.”
The MLAs of the BJP, which was in government until over a month ago, observed a minute’s silence in memory of the children after the House was adjourned.
The Legislative Council — of which Nitish is a member — did mourn the deaths of the students and the victims of the Uttarakhand floods. The chairman of the Council is Awadhesh Narayan Singh — a senior BJP leader.
Leader of Opposition in the Council and former deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, said: “Both, the deaths of the children and the pilgrims in Uttarakhand, are major tragedies. They should have been included in the list.”
The list of names to be mourned in the Assembly is prepared by the offices of the Speaker and the parliamentary affairs minister.
“The Speaker can contribute to the list just like the chairman, who has the final say in the matter. In this case, the Speaker did not include the names of the children while the chairman of the Council did,” said an aide of parliamentary affairs minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav.
An official of the Assembly secretariat explained the mechanism by which names are included for obituary reference. “In between two sessions, the Assembly secretariat has an in-built mechanism to get information about MLAs, ex-MLAs, MPs and ex-MPs who have died during the period when the House is not in session. The list is given to the Speaker, who formally gives his approval for a short obituary to be printed, which is read out in the House. He can also include names of other persons for the reference and asks the staff to prepare an obituary note for them also. If the government is interested in any inclusions, the parliamentary affairs ministry may suggest inclusion of some names,” the official said. He stressed that in this case, there was no move either by the Speaker or the parliamentary affairs ministry to include the names of the 23 children.
The Speaker said all political parties approved the list.
“I include the names of persons who were members of this House. But whatever names are included are approved by leaders of various political parties having representation in the House. This list was approved in the meeting of the political parties on July 24,” Choudhary said.
Leader of the Opposition Nand Kishore said they were given the list in the House today. “When I raised the matter in the House, the Speaker said he would include the names later. But he did not do so and neither did the Treasury benches support my move. In the past, the Bihar Assembly has mourned the death of persons in the Mumbai blasts and those who died in the attack on Parliament,” he said.
The JD(U) said the BJP was trying to draw political mileage out of the incident. “The BJP has already announced it will press for an adjournment motion on Monday on the issue. The House is going to thoroughly debate the issue,” a JD(U) legislator said.