Indian School Principal Arrested After Poisoning

When 47 Indian schoolchildren were hospitalized (and 23 died) after eating contaminated lunches last week, the principal of the school, Meena Kumari, was nowhere to be found. Over these past seven days she "was among the most wanted people in India" — that is, until was arrested Wednesday by the police.

Supposedly she was "on her way to surrender before a judge in Chapra" when she was detained by a special investigative team, the district police chief Sujeet Kumar told The New York Times. Kumari was being searched for by the police not only because she's the principal of the school, but also because "she bought the cooking oil from a store owned by her husband, who might have stored the cooking oil in a container once filled with pesticide," according to police reports.

A hospital superintendent said last Thursday that the post-mortem reports on the children who died confirmed that insecticide was either in the food or cooking oil. Cases of tainted food are fairly common in India's free school lunch programs, and in the days following the Bihar case Indian media illuminated other cases of children made sick by school lunches. However, Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, said at a news conference that "this huge tragedy is not merely due to a coincidence or mere negligence" and that even though the children had complained that there seemed to be something wrong with the food, Kumari told them to keep eating it anyway. Kumar also promised that the government will build "a new high school, health center and roads and establish a supply of safe drinking water" in the village where the children died.

Kumari has been charged with murder and criminal conspiracy.

Image: Pratham Books via Flickr