As the second wave of COVID wreaked it’s havoc in India, thousands of children lost one or both parents. A surge in the number of abandoned minors, is cause for worry.
Government records show that 577 children have been orphaned by coronavirus between April 1 and May 25. These youngsters, “not only are suffering emotional agony, but they also have an enormous danger of negligence, abuse and exploitation,” said UNICEF India’s Chief Yasmin Haque.
The tragic facts reveal urgent requests for aid through social networks. Social media calls for breast milk and meals for children who have lost their mothers are being made.
The severity of the problem does not however end with the increase in children who are left without care givers and resources. Some orphans are also being put up for illicit adoption on social media. Although such requests might be well-intended, several social activists like Smriti Irani, Minister for Women and Child Development, warn that they might be very reckless and unlawful ways of tackling this complex issue.
According to Indian laws, an orphaned youngster’s condition must be inspected by a government official, who will then place them in an appropriate institution if they are not looked after by relatives. Irani further advised against “trapping” and “illegal”, unofficial techniques of adopting orphans.
The central government, on Saturday, announced a pension scheme for dependants of COVID victims. The statement from the prime minister’s office also stated that children who have lost their parents will get free health insurance of ₹5 lakhs till 18 years of age under the PM Cares for Children scheme, and assistance for higher education loans, the premium for which will be paid from the PM Cares Fund. They will also receive a fund of ₹10 lakhs when they turn 23 from the fund.
Several states governments have also stepped up to guarantee assistance to these children in order to address this issue.
According to the Indian Express, the government of Andhra Pradesh has established childcare centres and residential schools in each of its 32 districts to care for children who have been orphaned or separated from their parents as a result of coronavirus. These institutions will provide the children with nutritious food, housing, and education for as long as required. Two helpline numbers – 181 and 1098 – have been established for assistance with these centres.
For long-term care, the kid will be placed in the kinship care of a suitable guardian or placed in the legal adoption pool, depending on their decision.
In addition, the state government has provided ₹10 lakh fixed deposit support for orphaned children from low-income households. The guardians of these youngsters would be able to use the ₹5,000 monthly interest for their daily care. When the child reaches the age of 25, the fixed deposit will attain maturity.
The Chhattisgarh government has committed to cover the cost of schooling for children whose parents died as a result of the coronavirus, as well as to provide them with a monthly scholarship.
Students in classes 1-8 will get a scholarship of ₹500, and students in classes 9-12 will get ₹1,000, regardless of whether they attend a government or private school.
The Delhi government has guaranteed free schooling to children whose parents died as a result of COVID-19, as well as monthly financial aid to homes that have lost a wage earner. The Delhi government’s social welfare department has also written to district offices, institutions, and childcare facilities, requesting that such youngsters be identified and rehabilitated as soon as possible.
Children who have lost their parents to COVID must be brought before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) within 24 hours, according to the directive. When physical engagement is not feasible owing to COVID constraints, digital appearance and interaction may be employed in extreme instances. According to a report in the New Indian Express, government authorities stated that a panel would analyse the child’s needs and issue appropriate directives, allowing care givers to care for the child or placing them in institutional or non-institutional care.
The government of Karnataka established separate quarantine facilities for kids up to 18 years old, who were orphaned by COVID-19 and need a rehabilitation system.
Shashikala Jolle, the state’s minister for women and child welfare stated that the government has established the 1098 helpline, and that a senior IAS official, Mohan Raj, has been assigned as the nodal person to guarantee that such children are cared for. The department has also devised a particular treatment plan for COVID-infected youngsters.
The Kerala government, on Thursday, announced that the COVID-19 orphaned children in the state will be given a special package. The children will receive a lump sum payment of ₹3 lakhs as part of the package at first.
In addition, they would get ₹2,000 every month till they reach the age of 18. “The government has also resolved to pay for their education up to the degree level,” stated Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Maharashtra has established a 10-member task force for each of its 36 districts, to identify the children that were orphaned because of the pandemic and has stated that up to 2,290 children have lost one or both their parents due to coronavirus.
The task force teams will also monitor and oversee the arrangements at its shelter to guarantee that trafficking and exploitation do not take place. After receiving evidence that anti-social elements have been encouraging child trafficking, the government has also set up a helpline number for seeking information on these youngsters.
To monitor children in risky situations immediately, the government of Odisha has issued the 1098 helpline, the 1800-345-4494 OSCPSR helpline and the state COVID helpline 104. Temporary residences have been built in all 30 districts for children whose families have been affected by COVID and are in distress. The state has also agreed to pay for their schooling and provide these children with a monthly allowance.
The Uttarakhand government has announced the Mukhyamantri Vatsalya Yojana, which will go into effect on May 30. As per the scheme, children who have lost both parents will get a monthly payment of ₹3,000 till they reach the age of 21 under this scheme. The state government will also provide for their education and reserve 5% of government positions for them.
The Uttar Pradesh government has announced that it will take responsibility of all the children across the state who have lost both their parents.
The state government has established a team in each district to locate these children and to take them to their lawful adoption pool. Meanwhile, under Section 6 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, the State Child Protection Society has been entrusted with forming shelters for the rehabilitation of such children and coordinating with other organisations for their long-term care.