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Hunger, poverty and public apathy left a family in Bihar devastated after a hungry 12-year-old girl was allegedly hit on the head with a serving spoon for asking for a second helping of the midday meal, and her father kicked in his testicles when he reached the school to protest. The man later died of his injury.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the gruesome incident took place in Gokhlapur village of Bihar's Araria district on 12 February.
Kasheeda, a Class V student who studies in Rajkiya Prathmik Vidyalaya comes from a family of daily wage earners, recounted the incident to IE: When I asked for khichdi a second time, school cook Sanjit hit me with a serving spoon with a long handle. I came back home crying and complained to abbu. My father immediately rushed to the school and told Sanjit, ‘Sab bachchon ko sarkari khana khane ka haq hai (All children are entitled to the government mid-day meal)’.
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She added that a school teacher and the school headmaster rushed at her father shouting, 'Cheer denge', and 'Maaro'.
"The school headmaster hit my father between his legs," Kasheeda said.
The IE article claimed that Kasheeda's father Shagir "was reportedly hit on the testicles, doubled over in pain, defecated in his clothes and fainted". He was rushed to the hospital but he never recovered. Shagir leaves behind five members whom the villagers have been feeding since his death.
In 2013, Bihar's midday meal scheme had come under controversy because 23 children died after eating a meal poisoned with pesticide and were later buried in and around the school grounds.
In India, where over 30 per cent children suffer from malnourishment, the government is clearly struggling to provide basic food to the hungry under its midday meal scheme.
According to recent findings by Unicef, and the Indian government in a new study called the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC), 30 per cent of children under five years of age are underweight; and 45 per cent of households still defecate in public. An article in The Economist has observed that states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are 'notoriously backward' in matters of nutrition and child welfare.