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Tragedy in Bihar: 22 children dead, dozens in hospital after eating India school lunch

At least 22 children are dead and dozens have been hospitalized after eating lunch served at their school in eastern India on Tuesday.

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Indian schoolchildren eat food served as part of The 'Mid Day Meal' scheme at a Government Primary School in Hyderabad on June 23, 2010. The scheme is the popular name for the school meals programme in India. It involves provision of lunch free of cost to schoolchildren on all working days. The key objectives of the programme are: protecting children from classroom hunger, increasing school enrolment and attendance, improved socialisation among children belonging to all castes, addressing malnutrition, and social empowerment through provision of employment to women. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 22 children are dead and dozens remain in hospital after eating a free lunch served at their school in eastern India on Tuesday.

The children, all under the age of 12, had been served a meal of rice and lentils cooked at their school in Masrakh village in Bihar state, according to the BBC.

Bihar state's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered an immediate investigation into the deaths and has sent a team of forensic experts to the school. Local TV stations have run images of sick children lying on wooden tables in a state-run hospital.

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"It is a matter of uncertainty why some of the children died while others survived after consuming the midday meal," local Bihar state administrator Abhijit Sinha told Agence France-Presse

Compensation has been offered to parents of children who died as a result of eating the school meal.

Indian news service IANS reported that government guidelines on food quality are often ignored in Bihar state due to widespread corruption in the school lunch service.

It said that in the past, dead lizards, frogs, insects and a rat have been found in school meals.

Bihar is one of India's poorest and most populated sates. Free school lunches are very popular in the country and are seen as a way to increase attendance.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/130716/8-children-dead-80-hospital-after-india-school-lunch