Bihar CM Nitish silences critics, says 'Chhapra mid-day meal tragedy accused will be punished'

Patna, July 24 (ANI): Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who today issued his first public comment on the Chhapra mid-day meal tragedy, expressed his grief over the entire incident, and said that those responsible will be tried and punished.

"I have a lot of regret and sorrow over what happened..... We cannot bring back the children, but we will work hard to improve their village," he said.

Kumar said that his government took instant steps the day the midday meal tragedy took place in Chhapra.

Kumar, who indicated that he was not well and unable to travel, said that he does not want to politicize this incident.

"I don't want to stoop low and play politics on this midday meal incident like others," Kumar told the media here.

"I don't believe in just talking...I was working, not sitting at home," he added.

Kumar said the school principal has been arrested, and added that the Bihar Police is probing all aspects.

"It doesn't seem to be a normal case of carelessness. Whoever is responsible for this midday meal tragedy will be tried and punished," he said.

The Chief Minister said that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed to investigate the matter, and lashed out at the opposition parties for demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.

"It has now become a fashion to demand a CBI probe," he said.

Ministers in the Bihar Government have so far alleged that the mid-day meal was deliberately poisoned as part of a political conspiracy to destabilize the government.

Leaders of the opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) have launched a frontal attack on the Bihar Chief Minister for not visiting the village where the incident took place.

About 23 children have died after eating a free mid-day meal at their school in Bihar's Chhapra district on July 16 and several others are undergoing treatment at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH).

The Bihar Chief Minister had earlier ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident. He had also announced a compensation of two lakh rupees each to the families of the deceased. (ANI)