Food poisoning kills 1 and 58 ill in a residential school near Durgapur

Death of a class III student of a residential school in Kanksa near Durgapur has snowballed into a political blame-game. However Initial report suggests that it is a case of severe food poisoning.

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Student of a residential school admitted in SD hospital of Durgapur

Archana Hembram, a nine-year-old girl from Nituria in Purulia who studied in Pandit Raghunath Murmu Memorial School in Kanksa, was declared brought dead in early hours of yesterday at Durgapur sub-divisional hospital, barely 20 Km away. By late evening yesterday, at least 58 students of the residential school had to be admitted to the Durgapur sub-divisional hospital with stomach pain, fever and vomiting. Condition of two students – Susmita Murmu of class IV hailing from Ranibandh, Bankura and another class III student – was critical, hospital sources said.
Pundit Raghunath Murmu Memorial School is an English-medium residential co-educational school exclusively for tribal students and is run by ‘Bikalpa’ – an NGO in Kanksa in Burdwan since 2004. Students from tribal-dominated villages in Purulia, Bankura, West Midnapore, Birbhum and Burdwan are admitted into the school, which presently has strength of 260 students. The centre provides the school with Rs 1,000 per student. Bikalpa, incidentally, is run mostly by the party’s members and supporters of CPI (M).
Day before yesterday, 25 students of the residential school were taken to the Panagarh block primary health centre after they complained of sickness after breakfast. They were released in the afternoon and were taken back to the hostel. But, some of them complained of high fever with nausea in the night and were taken to the Illambazar block hospital in neighboring Birbhum. When the condition of the students (all girls) started deteriorating around midnight, they were referred to the Durgapur SD Hospital.
“It is yet to be ascertained how the meal meant for the girls’ hostel got poisoned,” said Mr. Parashnath Tiwari, secretary, Bikalpa. Mr. Tiwari is a district committee member of the CPI (M). “We are holding a separate inquiry into the incident. The school authorities had always taken care while preparing food for the students. The teaching and the non-teaching staff of the school eat the same food,” said Mr. Tiwari.
The state Backward Classes Welfare Minister, Dr Upen Biswas, accompanied by two MLAs from Durgapur – Mr. Apurba Mukherjee and Mr. Nikhil Banerjee – and the DM of Burdwan visited the sick students at the Durgapur SD Hospital yesterday. Dr. Biswas said, “It is the fault of the NGO. I have told the police to start a suo motu case against the school authorities and conduct an inquiry. A departmental inquiry will also be started.”
Hospital superintendent Debabrata Das said: “We suspect severe food poisoning from the symptoms. The affected students are also suffering from dehydration. We are taking all necessary steps.” A four-member team of doctors arrived yesterday afternoon from Burdwan Medical College and Hospital to assist the doctors in Durgapur.
The issue has snowballed into a political clash, with the Trinamool Congress alleging that the incident had occurred due to the NGO’s negligence, and asking for its removal from running the government-sponsored school. As news of the possible food poisoning spread, nearly 50 women led by Sabita Banerjee, the head of the women’s wing of Trinamool in Kanksa, began protests outside the school campus, demanding a thorough probe.
The school secretary was heckled by some guardians when he went to the Durgapur hospital to meet the some of the students today, forcing him to leave.

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